UK’s National Boundaries Form Dividing Line On Brexit

SNP Autumn Conference 2015 - Day 2
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Opinion on the European Union (EU) referendum question may cut across the political divide, but when it comes to the UK’s national boundaries the divide is crystal clear: Scotland backs remaining within the EU while much of England wants out.

In May the Justice Secretary and Leave campaigner Michael Gove dismissed suggestions that Scotland is more Europhile than the rest of the country, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “When we vote to leave I think a majority of people in Scotland will also vote to leave as well.”

But it is unclear what basis Mr. Gove had for making the statement, as poll after poll on the EU referendum question has steadfastly shown that the Scottish people overwhelmingly support Britain remaining within the EU.

The most recent poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of The Times at the end of May found the two camps to be evenly split overall at 50 per cent each after discounting the “don’t knows” and those not planning to vote.

But the regional results show a very different picture: 65 per cent of Scots were planning to vote Remain, against just 35 per cent who backed Leave. London also backed Remain by 60 per cent to 40 per cent, but with the rest of the country favouring Leave by a margin of four to eight points.

YouGov blends the Midlands and Wales in together in its results, making that region the most Eurosceptic (44 per cent Remain, 56 per cent Leave), but research undertaken by the company earlier this year, based on opinions from more than 80,000 people from around the country shows a stark national picture.

A Survation poll undertaken on 24 May shows an even more divided picture: fully 75.5 per cent of Scots likely to vote were backing Remain, against 24.5 per cent who were planning to vote Leave.

Wales showed a similar picture: 62.8 per cent Remain against 37.2 per cent Leave, as did London which was split 59.1 per cent Remain against 40.9 Leave. The North of England, however, and the Midlands, both backed leaving.

When mapped according to Euroscepticism, sharp geographical divides are easy to spot. Indeed, it is possible to locate the national boundaries between Scotland, England and Wales and the locations of major cities almost purely by Euroscepticism alone (barring Oxfordshire).

Britain mapped according to Euroscepticism. Areas in green are voting Remain; red areas back Brexit.

Britain mapped according to Euroscepticism. Areas in green are voting Remain; red areas back Brexit.

The top ten most Eurosceptic areas in the UK (dark red) are all in England, whereas the top ten most Europhile (dark green) are split between Scotland, Wales and London.

But despite calls from the Scottish National Party’s (SNP’s) leader, Nicola Sturgeon, for a second referendum on independence —should Scotland be dragged out of the EU by the rest of the country— it appears that the main body of support for a Remain vote is not coming from Scottish nationalists.

A 2014 Survation poll found that those who backed an Independent Scotland in that year’s referendum on the matter were almost evenly split on the question of whether or not to leave the EU. By contrast, those who wanted to see Scotland remain part of the UK also favoured remaining in the EU by nearly two to one.

A pair of SNP supporters have today launched a concerted campaign to persuade Scottish voters to back Brexit, reasoning that those who want to see an independent Scotland, able to run her own affairs, ought want also to see an independent Britain.

“I joined the SNP 50 years ago to fight for independence, now I’m being asked to vote against it,” campaigner Don Morrison told STV.

“Inside the EU we have zero say and unelected officials govern our country. I want to see an independent Scotland, where we can govern ourselves and make our own decisions — that simply isn’t possible within the European Union.

“I can’t for the life of me understand why the SNP, who said we can do it during the independence referendum, are now saying we can’t be successful outside the European Union. What is the point in securing independence from Westminster just to hand it over to Brussels?”

His co-campaigner David Robertson added: “As an SNP supporter, I want to see the Scottish Parliament, and our elected Scottish politicians make the decisions. I don’t understand why we’re being asked to vote against more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

“Nicola [Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister] and our SNP government in Scotland could have more control if we left, yet they don’t seem to want it.”

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