Tuesday 23 February, 2016

The campaigns to decide the future of the UK within or without the EU have begun in earnest. 

As David Cameron left Brussels claiming victory in the battle of concessions with the EU, the date was set for voters to decide whether they wanted to remain part of the it, or end the UK’s 43-year association.

There will be few more intriguing battle grounds than in Scotland. The vote to decide the UK’s future in Europe has numerous sub-plots in Scotland, not least the repercussions for our own future in the UK, with polls seeming to suggest a greater affinity with Europe than the rest of the UK. A new poll of Scottish Chambers of Commerce members shows that 68% would vote for Britain to remain in the EU.

So where do we currently stand? What are our politicians lobbying for as the campaigning begins?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the SNP will lead a positive campaign to remain in Europe. She highlighted the many benefits EU-membership brings, including jobs, investment, social and employment protections and collective security. The SNP has been opposed to a June referendum due to campaign overlap with the Scottish Parliament election in May.

Sturgeon has been pressing for a ‘double majority’ in the EU referendum which would mean all four UK nations would need to vote to leave before Brexit is possible. She has also reiterated her warning that a second Scottish independence referendum will almost certainly be triggered if the UK voted to leave the EU while a majority in Scotland chose to remain. Speaking this weekend, she predicted that people who voted against Scottish independence would move over to the Yes campaign if Scotland is taken out of the EU against its will.

Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens have all said they will support remaining part of the EU.

Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale said “there is a strong socialist case for staying in the EU” while Ruth Davidson welcomed the chance for voters to have their voice heard in this referendum. She went on to say “For my own part, I believe that – on balance – Scotland’s businesses do better from being part of the biggest free trade bloc in the world, and I hope the country chooses to remain.”

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said “The European Union is one of the greatest creations in modern history.” Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell has also backed the campaign to remain.

While there are fewer visible Scottish politicians willing to publicly back the UK exit from Europe, although there are some high profile individuals who will be supporting that option. Naturally, David Coburn from UKIP is backing an exit, but so too are former SNP Deputy Leader Jim Sillars, former Labour Transport Minister Tom Harris and George Galloway.

Current polls suggest Scotland is more likely than other parts of the UK to vote to remain in the EU. Polling expert Prof John Curtice has said: “There is no doubt: Scotland is markedly more pro-European, markedly more likely to say it’s going to vote to remain, than is the UK as a whole.” An Ipsos MORI poll earlier this month found that (excluding don’t knows) 70% of voters in Scotland want the UK to remain in the EU.

We know that polling in Scotland tends to be very accurate, but it’ll be June before we know for certain, or even if that’s only the beginning of the issue.