Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont has praised the contribution the Polish community make to Borders life, in a speech in the UK Parliament.
As part of a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday morning, on Anglo Polish Relations, led by Conservative MP for Shrewsbury, Daniel Kawczynski, Mr Lamont spoke about the important historical ties between the Borders and Poland and called for securing the rights of Polish-speaking residents to be a priority in the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
However, on the title of the debate, he said: “Of course, representing a Scottish constituency, I’d have preferred the title for this debate to have been British-Polish Relations, but I’ll forgive the honorable gentleman for this oversight.”
Noting the physical examples of this shared history, including the Great Polish Map of Scotland near Peebles and the statue in Duns of Wojtek the beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking soldier bear of the Polish Army, he praised the contribution of the 1,300 Polish speakers who are based in the Borders.
In his speech, Mr Lamont said: “To this day, there remains a sizeable Polish community in the Borders, around 1,300 according to the most recent census data.
“Their contribution cannot be overstated: they work hard, integrate well and add some cultural diversity to the Borders.
“Hawick’s Saturday Polish School, which offers courses to Polish and English speaking adults, is a great example of a community doing well integrating, while also maintaining and promoting their own culture.
“I know there is some anxiety amongst this community about their future as the UK leaves the EU and ensuring that Poles continue to feel welcome here is an absolute necessity. I am pleased that securing the rights of EU migrants is one of the first priorities of the negotiations and I look forward to this being resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of all.
“Looking to the future, there is much we can do to improve and build upon the special relationship the UK has with Poland. As one of the fastest growing economies in the EU and one of our key allies, Poland will have an important role to play in the forthcoming negotiations.”
Speaking after the debate, John Lamont MP said: “I was keen to take part in this debate to promote the close links we have in the Borders with Poland.
“These links are based on a shared history stretching back more than 70 years to the Second World War.
“These days, Polish speakers living in the Borders contribute immensely, work hard and bring some cultural diversity to our area.
“I know there is some concern amongst Poles living in the UK about their future, but it’s important that we make it clear that EU migrants who have made a life here continue to be very welcome.
“One of the first things being discussed in the Brexit negotiations is securing the rights of these families and I am confident this will be concluded soon.”