Scotlands History

Italian immigration

Scotland had become home to Italian immigrants since the 1890s as people fled famine and poverty. Many found work selling Catholic statues in the growing Catholic communities in Scottish towns and cities. By the end of the Great War a sizable Italian community had been established in Glasgow.

Rather than gather in one area, Italian immigrants moved out of the city to settle throughout Scotland. Many made a living from the Scottish sweet tooth - with ice cream carts, parlours and cafes. In 1906 the British Women's Temperance Association campaigned against the Sunday trading of ice cream parlours in Scotland. Scottish shopkeepers felt threatened by the success of Italian businesses. Italian immigrants introduced fish and chips, and ran restaurants and pizzerias.

During World War II the Italian community in Scotland faced internment and deportation. Hundreds of interned Italian men died when the ship they were on, the Arandora Star, was torpedoed by a German U-boat on 2 July 1940.

In May 2008 Archbishop Mario Conti and First Minister Alex Salmond launched a project to build the Italian Cloister Garden next to St Andrew's Cathedral in Glasgow. The Archbishop said that the garden would be ‘a fitting symbol of the great bonds of friendship between Scotland and Italy’ and a lasting memorial to all who died aboard the Arandora Star. In his speech Alex Salmond noted that 'the Italian community is one of the strongest and brightest threads in the fabric of Scotland'.

Famous Scots-Italians include Nicola Benedetti, Alexander Trocchi, Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Capaldi, Ronni Ancona, Paolo Nutini, Ken Stott, Sharleen Spiteri, Jack Vettriano, Dario Franchitti and Lena Zavaroni.

  • Image of the front of an Italian Ice cream Shop, Edinburgh, 1907

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