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Immigration and Regional Identity Politics: Foe or Ally? A Case Study on Scotland (UK) and South Tyrol (I)

Verena Wisthaler

Large-scale immigration raises questions such as “Who are we?” and “Who belongs to us?” (Bauboeck 1996: 7).Nation-states try to manage those questions by setting up criteria for inclusion and exclusion applied through theircitizenship regimes. However, decentralization and the re-emergence of regions as important social, economicand political actors has led to a revival of regional identities. Moreover, territories traditionally inhabited byethno-national minorities quot; or nations without a state quot; such as South Tyrol, Catalonia, the Basquecountry, Flanders, Scotland, etc. have always defended their particular identity within a larger nation-state. Thoseregional actors do not have, in most cases, the means to set up criteria for inclusion and exclusion throughcitizenship regimes. Nevertheless, immigration alters the population of those regions and territories, and raisesimportant questions regarding the impact of migration on regional or minority identities.The article aims first to elaborate on the relation between immigration and identity change within stateless nationsand territories inhabited by national minorities from a theoretical point of view: How does immigration affect thecollective identity of ethno-national minorities? Might immigrants become a factor preserving and strengtheningthe territory or are they a threat to the distinctiveness of the culture?Secondly the article examines those questions by comparing Scotland (UK) and South Tyrol (I), two regionscharacterized by strong regional identities as well as claims for more independence and a wide margin of powersto govern the territory, but also increasing migration from third countries. The parties governing the territory, theSNP (Scottish Nationalist Party, UK) and the SVP (South Tyrolean People’s Party, I) promote two opposingapproaches towards immigration: an inclusive one in Scotland and a rather exclusive one in South Tyrol.

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