Population Pole vaults to 20,000 in Capital

THE influx of Polish immigrants to the Capital has risen to more than 20,000, with specialist bars and clubs springing up to cater for the growing workforce.

Officials estimate there has been a 400 per cent rise in the number of Poles living in the city in only ten months.

The fresh arrivals are settling across Edinburgh, but the Leith area is proving the most popular location to live. Many are working in the hospitality industry in pubs, hotels and restaurants, with the construction and agriculture sectors also attracting a swathe of recruits.

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The invasion has prompted the opening of the Cenzor Bar in York Place, complete with retro decor drawn from Communist-era Poland. Three Polish delis are also enjoying good business selling authentic foodstuffs, while off-licences have begun stocking more of the nation's lager.

And more than 400 revellers attend the monthly Polished club night at The Venue in Calton Road, featuring guest DJs flown over from their homeland.

According to the latest figures from the beginning of March, 205,000 Poles have officially registered with the Home Office since arriving in the UK.

But officials say that twice that number have moved to Britain since the expansion of the EU in May 2004.

Aleksander Dietkow, consul general for Poland in Scotland, said: "There are 20,000 Poles registered in Scotland, but the true figure living here is probably around 40,000 to 45,000.

"Around 20,000 Poles have come to Edinburgh."

Last May, the number of Poles in the Capital was estimated at 4000 amid claims the new workers were propping up the city's hospitality industry.

Many hotels were struggling to fill shortages of essential staff and launched recruitment drives in new EU accession states such as Poland, Latvia and the Czech Republic to fill jobs such as porters, waiters and cleaners.

Mr Dietkow added: "Eighty per cent of the Poles are under 35 years old, while 40 per cent are under 25. They are also well educated, with 30 to 40 per cent having attended university.

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"Many have come here because of the relationship between Scotland and Poland. They find there are similarities between the people so they find it easier to be accepted into the culture and build good relationships."

Web designer Albert Fret runs the portal www.szkocja.net along with a group of fellow Poles. The site provides advice on living and working in Scotland and receives 5000 hits a day.

He said: "The people that come here have to start somewhere and integrate into the system.

"They learn English and they can then look for better jobs.

"Leith is the number one place for them to stay, but it's quite spread out. Most plan to stay for over two years. Some will stay for three to five years while others might stay for good.

"A lot of the Poles come from poor areas where there is high unemployment. There are no jobs so they come here where they can find employment with good pay."

As well as the club night at the Venue, the growing population is also attracting Polish bands to Edinburgh to reunite with their fan base.

Popular group T.Love are set to play a gig at The Liquid Rooms to an expected audience of 500.

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Lloyd McDermott, company manager with The Venue, said the Polished night was proving a big success. He said:

"The music is a mix of contemporary dance upstairs and more traditional stuff downstairs. It's going well and has proved great for us as they pack in 400 people on a Sunday night."

A Scottish Executive spokes-woman said: "Our Fresh Talent initiative aims to help tackle Scotland's ageing and declining population by attracting hard working, talented people to come live, work or study in Scotland."

'It's much better paid than Poland, but it can still be difficult'

GOSIA TABOR came to the Capital from a small town in Poland 15 months ago and started work as a waitress.

The 24-year-old has been living in Leith Walk, but will today move to a flat in Tollcross.

She said: "I started as a waitress at the Spaghetti Factory near the Omni Centre. I was on basic pay and although it was much better paid than in Poland, it can still be difficult with the cost of flats and things.

"The majority of Poles are coming here to earn some money. I came here because I had a friend in Edinburgh and I wanted to improve my English."

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She added: "I think Polish people are bringing our culture across to Scotland. Because we're in a different city, we're more likely to stay together. In the next few years, I believe more Polish shops and bakeries will open as we all miss the food."

Ms Tabor is now studying for a four-year degree in business management at Napier University.

She added: "I found out that I could get a place at university to continue my studies. I already had a degree in teaching English from a college in Wroclaw.

"I think I will be here for at least five years. It depends on the situation in Poland as there is high unemployment, even for graduates."