The more things change the more they stay the same.


The first Independent Labour Party MP blamed immigrants for driving down wages of Scottish workers and he accused them of stealing and of failing to adhere to proper standards of hygiene.

In an article written for the journal The Miner in 1887, he criticised the owners of the local Glengarnock ironworks for using “Russian Poles”.

“What object they have in doing so is beyond human ken unless it is, as stated by a speaker at Irvine, to teach men how to live on garlic and oil, or introduce the Black Death, so as to get rid of the surplus labourers,” he said.

In a speech to a meeting of miners the same year, he said: “In former years if a slave escaped in America and crossed to Canada he was a free man, but here we have a batch of men sent from their homes into our midst for the purpose of bringing you down, if possible, to their level. The authorities are at fault to allow it in view of their filthy habits."

In 1889, three years before becoming an MP, he complained to a Commons select committee about 3,000 foreigners working in Scotland in Glasgow, Ayrshire and Leith.

When it was pointed out to him that more people left Scotland than entered it, Hardie replied: “It would be much better for Scotland if those (Scots)were compelled to remain there and let the foreigners be kept out. Dr Johnson said God made Scotland for Scotchmen, and I would keep it so.”

Hardie said of the foreign workers at Glengarnock: “Their habits are very filthy, six or seven males occupying a one-roomed house.”

His “racist” views are highlighted in Scotland — a Suitable Case for Treatment, co-written by McLeish and journalist Tom Brown, drawing on research conducted by John Millar, an historian and second-generation Lithuanian raised in Scotland.