Contrary to a popular narrative portraying Scotland as fiercely pro-European Union (EU), Euroscepticism is rife across Scotland with some 60 per cent of Scots expressing Eurosceptic views, a report has found. Yet despite growing dissatisfaction with the European project, latest polling shows half of Scots are planning to vote to remain with the EU at the referendum.
Analysis of data from the British and Scottish Social Attitudes surveys collected over four months last year shows that around two thirds of Brits are Eurosceptic to some degree, but only a third would actually vote for the UK to leave the EU, as Breitbart London reported yesterday.
Perhaps more surprisingly considering the strongly pro-EU language of Scotland’s leaders, that pattern holds true for the Scottish people as well as the nation at large. The Social Attitudes surveys ask a more nuanced question than simply whether people want to remain within or leave the EU; it also gives options to stay in but reduce the EU’s power, keep things as they are, stay in and increase the EU’s power, and work towards a single European government.
When given these options, 43 per cent of Scots surveyed in 2015 wanted to remain within the EU but see its powers reduced, and a further 17 per cent wanted to leave, giving a total Eurosceptic vote of 60 per cent. By comparison, 65 per cent of Brits as a whole are Eurosceptic according to the researchers’ measure.
Furthermore, Euroscepticism has been growing steadily in Scotland since 1999, when just 10 per cent wanted to leave and a further 30 per cent wanted to stay but reduce Brussels’ powers. At that time, 28 per cent of Scots wanted to remain in and see the EU’s powers increased.
Yet that dissatisfaction with the EU project is not translating into support for leaving the EU. In a poll conducted by YouGov for The Times earlier this week, support for staying within the EU was by far the highest in Scotland, where a full 50 per cent said they were planning to vote ‘remain’, against 31 per cent planning to vote leave — 16 per cent were unsure.
The next most pro-EU region was London, where 41 per cent are planning to vote Remain, against 35 per cent who want to come out. In all other regions, there was more support for leaving than remaining.
Scots are also more likely to vote – just two per cent said they wouldn’t be heading to the ballot box on the 23rd June to vote in the referendum; for the rest of the UK the figure was five per cent, and it was highest in the north of England where seven per cent said they didn’t plan to vote.
The Scottish First Minister has thrown her weight fully behind the campaign to keep the UK within the EU, saying on Sunday: “It’s not a perfect institution – and while I believe it would be best for Scotland to be in the EU as an independent member state, I believe it is better for us in all circumstances to stay in.”
Ms Sturgeon has also committed to campaigning across the UK during the referendum, following her emergence as a popular figure on the left during the UK’s General Election last May.
A Scottish National Party (SNP) spokesman told the Sunday Herald: “The First Minister will continue to make speeches in London and elsewhere on our view of how the UK should operate in the EU. We will be setting out our views and our arguments for a positive view based on solidarity, social protection and mutual support.”
In contrast, the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has been asked to stay away from Scotland during the referendum campaign by SNP parliamentarians, who fear that his presence may turn off potential ‘remain’ voters.
During Business Questions at Westminster, SNP MP Pete Wishart asked cabinet minister Chris Grayling: “Can he please say to the PM: please stay away from Scotland for the next few months; we value our European membership in Scotland. So please can he stay away.”