Scotland, rUK and Euro-scepticism
04 December 2012
I've had a longstanding belief that the people of Scotland are far less Eurosceptic than those of the UK as a whole.
I would consider myself to be an enthusiast when it comes to the EU, although I accept that there are some major problems: a dreadful lack of accountability at the top, a toothless parliament, accounts not 'signed off' for a decade. Nevertheless, I'd like to see Scotland being an active and enthusiastic participant in the European Project. There are issues to sort out, but the EU has only been in existence for a few decades and deserves a chance. There are many more issues to sort out with the UK, and after three centuries it's had its chances.
But do my fellow Scots feel the same? Er, no, not really, if recent polls are to be believed. This one (page 25) from July shows Scotland's figures on leaving the EU to be slightly less than the UK average, but about the same as London's, and this one (page 19) from November more or less confirms these numbers.
So why do I still feel there's such a difference between Scotland and rUK on this? I think it's this. If you pin someone in Scotland down and ask them their opinion, they'll give it, just as much as anyone else. But when you go into the ballot box to elect your government, what's on your mind when you make your choice. Is it whether the party you vote for will give you a referendum on leaving the EU?
I'd suggest that in large parts of England, yes, many people will see that as one of, or the, main issue/s. In Scotland, mainly, we've got other priorities - giving powers away to Brussels is less of an issue when many of us feel we've already given most of them away to Westminster anyway. OK, that last point is somewhat partisan, but I do think that in a survey asking what your top 5 priorities for government are, the EU would feature highly in England, but here... "Meh!".
This difference in the importance of the issue has this major effect - if you want to get elected as the government in Westminster, you probably have to be Eurosceptic. If you want to get elected as the government in Holyrood, you can get away with being enth-EU-siastic.
I think this difference will increase in importance as the Independence referendum debate continues, and I think it will make things uncomfortable for the No campaign.