GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — On the south side of Glasgow, in the heartland of Scotland's Asian community, support for independence from the United Kingdom is strong as Thursday's referendum nears.
Colorful displays of Yes posters outnumber those backing the Better Together campaign. Talk on the street is of opportunity and a chance to create a fairer country more welcoming to immigrants.
Glasgow is Scotland's largest city, and its most ethnically diverse. Over the last 60 years an influx of Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Chinese, Italians, Poles and others have created new communities which, because of their relative small size, have had to merge with the culture of their adopted country.
Across Scotland, there are some 140,000 people who class themselves as Asian Scots, along with around 30,000 Africans, 7,000 from the Caribbean, 55,000 Poles and over 160,000 other non-British EU Citizens eligible to vote in the landmark referendum. These "New Scots" represent more than 4 percent of the population and with the polls putting both sides of the debate neck-and-neck just days before Thursday's vote, their views could be critical.
Alyas Hamidi, 21, was born in Glasgow and regards himself first and foremost as a Glaswegian. In public, with his friends, he is a Scot but at home — where English is rarely spoken with his parents and grandparents — he is Iranian. He identifies with both places — and wants his adopted homeland to embrace independence.
"I was the only Iranian boy in my class and apart from a few rude comments over the years I've never felt my background was a problem for anyone," he said. "I'm proud to be Scottish. I'll be voting yes."
He said that when his father moved to London more than 30 years ago it was hard to fit in, so his family tended to mix only with others from the same background. But after his parents moved to Glasgow, they had no choice but to mix with Scottish people because it was so much smaller than the British capital.
Research by the Center on Dynamics of Ethnicity, based at Glasgow University, recently found that minority groups in Scotland are more likely to claim a Scottish identity when compared to minority groups in England deciding whether to choose an English identity. Overall 94 percent of those from ethnic communities born in Scotland identify as being Scottish rather than British — likely giving independence forces a boost.
For many ethnic minority voters, contrasting attitudes on immigration between Scotland and the rest of the U.K. are a prominent factor in their decision making. Scotland, with a population of around just 5 million, wants a more open policy to attract people and talent, while the British government is under political pressure to curb immigration.
However, many European Union nationals living in Scotland fear they will have problems if an independent Scotland is refused entry into the EU.
Many are also concerned that a referendum on EU membership promised by Prime Minister David Cameron after the 2015 general election — assuming he retains power — could result in Scotland being forced to leave the EU if the rest of the U.K. votes that way.
"The one thing that does worry me is if Scotland votes No and the rest of the U.K. then decided to leave the EU, what would happen then?" said Monika Macko, 37, who moved from Krakow, Poland 11 years ago.
Despite calling Glasgow home she said she still felt very much Polish and part of the EU rather than Scottish or British.
"Most people have been very nice to me, but I did have one woman shout at me on the bus about why was I here and that I should go home to Poland," she said. "It has not always been easy to fit in. I suppose there are rude people everywhere but it doesn't make me feel like I'm Scottish."
Despite her fears about Britain eventually leaving the EU, Macko is leaning toward what she feels is the safer choice: No to independence.
"I have not been convinced there is a need for Scotland to separate from the rest of the U.K.," she said. "Most of my neighbors feel the same."
At the Central Gurdwara temple in Glasgow, serving a Sikh population of some 10,000, there are concerns that separation could lead to some of the same problems experienced between India and the nascent Pakistan in 1947.
Many of the older generation feel strong ties to Britain and are proud of the historic links between the two countries. This trend is mirrored throughout Scotland, where older voters tend to favor remaining part of Britain.
"I've lived in Scotland for 18 years. I was born in India and I was in London for 35 years before coming to Glasgow," said Naranjan Singh Benning, 63, a retired businessman and committed No voter. "I definitely feel British rather Scottish. We are all one country; it doesn't matter where you live."