By a Newsnet reporter
An opinion poll carried out by Survation on behalf of Sky News has shown that a slight majority of the UK population favour withdrawal from the EU, however in Scotland there is a strong majority for retaining EU membership.
When asked “Do you think the UK should remain a member of the EU?”, 44% said Yes, while 45% said No, but Scots showed themselves to be markedly more in favour of EU membership, with 63.8% saying Yes against just 29.6% saying No.
Although the regional findings are based upon small samples and so cannot be considered statistically reliable, according to this poll Scotland is by far the most pro-EU part of the UK – and by a margin of over 2 to 1.
In a statement, Survation said:
“The narrowness of the headline result, however, belies some sharply different opinions in different parts of the country, with the most Eurosceptic region, the North East of England, voting over 2:1 in favour of leaving, whilst the most pro-European region, Scotland, was over 2:1 against. Overall 7 of the 11 regions of Great Britain wanted to vote to leave the EU, whilst the other 4 (Scotland, the South-West, North-West and the most populous region, London) voting to remain a member.”
After Scotland, London is the most pro-EU part of the UK, with 54.2% in favour of EU membership. However some English regions show a strong majority in favour of withdrawal, reaching 65.7% in the North East. Inexplicably, when Sky News broadcast a graphic showing the regional breakdown of the poll, in an item headlined “UK split down the middle on EU membership”, the news channel showed a map of England only, and omitted any reference to Scotland or Wales.
The poll will be welcomed by the anti-EU rightwing populist party Ukip, which made a strong showing in the recent council elections and by-elections in England. The party hopes to top the poll in the next elections for the EU Parliament, due to be held on 22 May 2014.
The Sky News poll will also increase the pressure on the main UK political parties to adopt policies designed to prevent the loss of their support to Ukip, and makes it more likely that a referendum on EU membership will be held sometime after the next UK General Election.
However the poll also highlights the growing political gulf between Scotland and the rest of the UK. It also apparently confirms the observation of many commentators that Ukip will not repeat its English electoral success north of the border and will not find fertile territory in Scotland.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage met with a hostile reception on a visit to Edinburgh last month when he obstensibly visited the city to launch the party’s Aberdeen Donside by-election campaign.
Mr Farage claimed the protesters, from Edinburgh University and the Radical Independence Campaign, were “anti-English” – a claim widely reported in the UK media despite the fact that some of the most prominent protesters were themselves English.
One of the two people arrested during the demo, for allegedly throwing a drink over Mr Farage, later said in a tweet that he was “a proud Englishman” and strongly denied Mr Farage’s claims. Another who attended the protest was later revealed to be a Holyrood researcher for the Scottish Labour party.