Stefan Pelev – the only Bulgarian participant in Scotland’s political life

Photo: Courtesy of Stefan Pelev

"Not everyone who wanders is lost," British writer J. R.R. Tolkien wrote and he is right because every man wants to experience at least one adventure in their lifetime. The path of a Bulgarian, whom we are to tell you more about, started from his home city of Rousse, where Stefan Pelev graduated from his secondary school with excellent results, having won prizes in numerous Olympiads in History and Geography.

But Pelev knew well where he was headed to. He chose to go to Scotland, where he studied business management and international affairs at the University of Aberdeen. He managed to become part of the small quota for students from Eastern Europe. Speaking about the number of Bulgarians in Scotland, Stefan points out that while there are no official statistics, they are somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000, concentrated in five major cities: the capital city of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness. To earn their living Bulgarians mostly work non-prestigious jobs just like Mr. Pelev used to do.

 Life in the UK has its specifics that people who pursue the dream of a happy life on the island should know about, Pelev says and continues:

“There are many peculiar features because culture in Scotland and the UK is very different from ours, " Stefan says." We are southern people who are accustomed to living in a more carefree way and we are more flexible, while northern nations are more disciplined. There are also many legal obstacles that many Bulgarians do not know about. There are many people going there to look for livelihood and a better life, but they do not know they have to register with the National Insurance Bureau. There they get a National Insurance Number, which is a must, so you can start working legally. If you do not have this, you are working in the gray sector.”

Although locals have different understanding and rules than those of Eastern Europeans, Scots hire foreign job applicants if they show they are competent enough.

Stefan Pelev saw his chance when he found out that an MP from Aberdeen was looking for a trainee. The Bulgarian was selected after an interview filled with all sorts of questions, both about the history of Scotland and about its aims and development from now on. Gradually, assisting the MP's work, Stefan Pelev also joined his Scottish National Party. Pelev told us more about its story and goals.

“It gained popularity in the late 1990s, when in 1999 the parliament in London voted an act that allowed Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to have their own national parliaments called assemblies. As autonomous regions, they also received limited rights. This allows for Scottish identity to begin its revival, which is a very interesting process, and the Scottish started to rediscover their native language. Few people know that the local language in Scotland is Scottish Gaelic.”

The relative autonomy received from London allows Scotland to distinguish itself from some decisions taken at Westminster. The most prominent example of the different views of London and Edinburgh were the results of the Brexit referendum, in which 62% of the Scots voted against the United Kingdom leaving the EU. The question what would happen to Bulgarian citizens on UK territory after March 29 - has no clear answer. According to Stefan, there would surely be a period of adaptation for both the Bulgarians living on the Island and those who are just arriving. In her speeches, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva has repeatedly stated that all of our compatriots living on the territory of Great Britain and the British residing in Bulgaria must be re-registered. As for short trips to and from the United Kingdom, British Ambassador to Bulgaria Emma Hopkins said they would be carried out without a visa, but a stay longer than 3 months would require EU citizens to apply for residence permits.

English version: Alexander Markov

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