By Martin Kelly
The growing differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK over relations with the rest of Europe have been highlighted in a newly published poll.
According to the survey carried out by Angus Reid, twice as many Scots now favour remaining in the EU than wish to leave, whilst in the rest of the UK support for leaving the EU is neck and neck with those who wish to stay.
The poll, carried out between 24th and 25th of January surveyed 2,004 adults across the UK, the Scottish subset was 159. The survey asked respondents: “If David Cameron succeeds in getting major powers back from the EU before 2017, how would you vote in the referendum?”
According to the poll, 45% of Scots want to remain members of the European Union, whilst only 23% think that the UK should leave. The survey revealed that outwith Scotland, those in favour of staying in the EU matched the number of people who wanted to leave – with both recording 34%.
The results were seized on by the SNP who claimed it was further evidence that the real threat to Scotland remaining in the EU came not from independence, but from Westminster.
UK PM David Cameron has pledged to hold an In/Out referendum on EU membership if the Conservatives win the next UK general election. The referendum will follow, Cameron has said, a renegotiation of the UK’s treaty obligations; although if his demands are not met then it is uncertain how this will affect Cameron’s current claims to support membership.
The Angus Reid poll also shows a large majority believe that Mr Cameron’s EU stance is a distraction from the economic problems the UK is currently facing, with 68% of Scots saying it is probably or definitely distracting from the crisis. According to forecasts, the UK economy is currently facing the prospect of a triple dip recession – the first ever.
Commenting the SNP’s Westminster Leader Angus Robertson said:
“This poll highlights the difference in how we view Europe in Scotland. Scotland is in favour of being in the EU on a scale of two-to-one, meanwhile across the UK as a whole voters are evenly split on the matter.
“David Cameron’s fundamentally confused plan for a referendum to exit the EU is bombing in Scotland – as this latest poll shows.
“The figures also show an overwhelming rejection of the Westminster leaders from the people of Scotland, which will come as a blow to the anti-independence Tory-Labour pact.
“The referendum on Europe is unpopular in Scotland with the vast majority of people seeing it as nothing more than a distraction.
“It is clear that Westminster Euroscepticism poses the only threat to Scotland’s position in the EU and its market of half a billion people – which completely rubbishes the scaremongering of Alistair Darling and the rest of the No campaign.”
The poll showed the SNP with a four point lead over Labour for the UK general election – 39% against 35%. It also showed UK party leaders continued to struggle with their poll ratings north of the border. Embarrassingly for the Labour party, Ed Miliband on 13% polled less than David Cameron who managed 14%, with Nick Clegg and UKIP’s Nigel Farrage on 6% each.
Mr Robertson added: “It is also excellent that – following the Panelbase/Sunday Times poll showing SNP Holyrood support still at the record 45% level that delivered the 2011 election landslide – this poll also shows the SNP in the lead for a Westminster general election.”
Meanwhile, the chances of both major UK parties pledging an EU referendum increased with results from another poll showing that Labour would benefit politically should they pledge to hold their own ballot.
According to a ComRes survey for the Independent newspaper, Ed Miliband’s Labour party could reap an electoral advantage if he too was to pledge to hold a referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union.
The survey found that over a quarter of the UK electorate (27%) would be more likely to vote Labour if this was the case.
Mr Miliband’s party have been coy regarding their plans for the EU and have carefully avoided ruling an EU ballot out, saying only that this is not the right time.
However polling suggests that the Conservative party has received a boost from David Cameron’s decision and have now closed the gap on Labour to seven points, down from ten points.
Bolstering predictions that Labour will themselves pledge an EU referendum is a so called “referendum lock” that binds the Labour party to a ballot on EU membership should any treaty changes take place. Passed in January 2011 Ed Miliband has confirmed Labour will not repeal the law that means a ballot is triggered if British powers and competencies within the EU are altered.
The growing Euroscepticism from the London parties as they jostle for the Middle-England vote has led to increasing frustration from Europe with the latest poll in France showing a majority (52%) now believing that the UK should leave the EU.
This week, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote to all 27 members of the European Union underlining the SNP’s firm belief in the continued EU membership of an independent Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon’s letter followed comments from Ireland’s European Minister Lucinda Creighton who said she believed that all members of the EU would welcome Scotland remaining a partner. Ms Creighton also clarified comments she gave to the BBC, saying that she believed an independent Scotland would be able to renegotiate its continued membership from within the EU, after a Yes vote in 2014.