Citizenship ceremony is special occasion for Dr Walker

The majority of us take being British for granted but for those from other countries wanting to live in this country it can be a daunting prospect to become a citizen of the British Isles.

However doctor Judith Walker decided to do just that after falling in love with a Scotsman and Scotland.

She now lives in Stonebyres near Lanark with her husband Ernest, who she met on a visit to Scotland in 2007. She had been working in Switzerland as a doctor for a large pharmaceutical company and is originally from Canada where her family still live.

Judith attended her naturalisation ceremony along with a group of around 15 other people in mid-May at South Lanarkshire Council’s Hamilton offices and received a certificate and medal from Deputy Lord Lieutenant Janet Low, who also chatted to the new citizens after the formalities.

Judith said: “The ceremony was really lovely. I was working with a colleague in Switzerland and she said I should meet her dad who was on his own. She thought we would get on well together but I didn’t think much about it at the time until I decided to visit Edinburgh.

‘‘She mentioned it again, and I didn’t know anyone, so thought it would be nice and agreed.”

Judith added: “ We kept in contact after that and one thing led to another. It all just seemed to happen naturally.”

Work took Judith to Scotland when she secured a job as the chief medical officer at a multinational pharmaceutical company, helping to develop new drugs and it was then that she started to look at Scotland as a potential new home.

She said: “I came to the United Kingdom on what was then a highly skilled migrant programme. I then got a visa and decided to stay so was given indefinite leave to stay.”

Speaking about the process of becoming a UK citizen Judith said it was quite involved.

She said: “It was quite a long winded process and I was surprised how rigorous it was. When I moved here I had to do an English language exam to prove I could speak English and a life in the UK test. Some of the questions were not relevant to Scotland, such as the school system, but there were also some odd questions like, how many weeks paternity leave are you allowed.

“Other questions dealt with the percentages of ethnic groups and public holidays here.”

Another hurdle all people wanting to gain citizenship had to do was provide documentation to show they could support themselves. The citizenship ceremony was held in the corporate dining room and Judith recalled: “It was a really nice setting.

‘‘It was a group ceremony and there were people from quite a few places around the world including Serbia, India and Pakistan.

‘‘The officials called us up one at a time and gave us a lovely commemorative medal.

And, speaking about the whole process to become British, Judith said: “I think it is quite reassuring. When I first came here it was done on a points based system with higher marks for having a degree and being able to support yourself.

“My husband is Scottish and people sometimes ask me why I decided to come and live here.

‘‘I think I really love the people here. They remind me a bit of the people back in Canada. It is also a very beautiful part of the world. Ernest and I love to do a lot of walking and we are animal lovers, so enjoy the countryside around here very much.”

And she added, “Coming from Canada and living in Texas and Switzerland has been great, but believe it or not I really like the weather here. You don’t get the extremes. It is neither bitterly cold or unbearably hot and we love The Clyde Valley. It is particularly beautiful.”

Her now daughter-in-law, who brought the pair together said: “This is such a lovely story and with so much negativity surrounding immigration it is nice to see Scotland welcoming people like this who want to make this country their permanent home.

“Judy has integrated into Lanark life and the community with great enthusiasm and loves walking her five poodles.

She is a leading neurologist and helping in the uphill battle with MS and Alzheimer’s.”

She added: “She is a truly remarkable woman and such a welcome ‘official’ addition to the Lanark area that I feel this should be highlighted as a positive good news story.”

The aim of the citizenship ceremony was for Judith and the other attendees to gain a full understanding of the rights and responsibilities that come with British citizenship and also to ensure that they are properly welcomed into the British family.