Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
Post-Brexit, it looks like it might be threatening to move to Scotland.
Shortly after the U.S. Super Tuesday primary elections, Google Search Trends revealed a surge in Americans searching for information on how to move to Canada. In the wake of the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union, we wondered: is there a British version of thinking about moving to Canada? So we asked Simon Rogers, data editor for Google News Lab, to look up exactly which destinations residents of different U.K. cities have been exploring so far today. This is what he found:
Top Google searches for “Move to X” in U.K. cities at 3:45 PM BST on Friday, June 24
|City||1st Choice||2nd Choice|
As it turns out, for many Brits, the British equivalent to moving to Canada is in fact ... moving to Canada. For people in London and Cardiff, the U.S.’s northern neighbor was the most popular “move to” search choice, while it was the second most popular among web searchers in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Southampton. In Scotland’s biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, the popular choice is more eccentric. There, most people have been searching “move to Gibraltar.” It seems unlikely that these major cities are genuinely thinking about squeezing onto a tiny rock, but Gibraltar has been on people’s minds, I suspect, because it was first to declare a referendum result (for Remain) early this morning and is now finding itself under high-profile pressure for power-sharing from Spain.
Other searched-for countries are classic destinations for British migrants: Ireland (popular with retirees), Australia, and New Zealand. And the most widespread choice, coming first in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, and Bristol, is somewhere closer to home. In fact, the dominance of “move to Scotland” searches in so many parts of England seems to say quite a lot about the current state of Brexit Britain.
If you can put up with weather that somehow manages to be marginally worse than England’s, Scotland can be a wonderful place to live, but that’s probably not why it’s currently high in the searches. It crops up because, while the U.K. has voted as a whole to leave the E.U., Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain within the union. Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already made it clear that she will push for Scotland to remain as part of the E.U. by any means necessary, and this may mean another Scottish referendum on independence fairly soon. A dream of moving to Scotland is thus a dream of continuing connection with Europe, reflecting a fear of being cast adrift on a soggy Atlantic island where angry, isolated English people turn on each other in frustration. Such a thought is enough to make anyone want to pack their bags. Now where did I leave my waterproofs?