Scotland receives substantial EU grants as do the Northern English regions. It could be argued that the economies of Northern Ireland and Wales are dependent on them. London and the South East, on the other hand, with annual wages in excess of 70% above the UK average, pay more tax and so feel that they pay most of the cost of EU membership. Being so wealthy London and the South East don’t get the grant support that the rest of the UK does.
The EU is therefore redistributing wealth from the richer parts of the UK to those areas which require the most development and in doing this they are actually making up for the lack of investment in these regions by Westminster. However, the size of the population in London and the South East is large enough to win an EU in/out referendum for the ‘No’ vote, even though the rest of the UK gets a better deal from the EU and, after the campaigns make this clear, may vote to stay in.
Polls are snapshots of how people are feeling ‘now’ rather than how they will vote after all the arguments have been made. In the case of the EU poll, the Prime Minister has announced this will take place in 2016, after the Scottish independence referendum and the UK general election – so a lot could change in the meantime.
However, those caveats aside, the latest YouGov poll on EU membership makes for interesting reading:
UK 36 in, 42 out,
Scotland 44 in 36 out.
A 14-point difference between Scots who want to stay in the EU and the rest of the UK.
During any EU referendum campaign the cold hard cash argument will come to the fore in Scotland and for our friends in the English regions, highlighting that the motorway extensions, new bridges, broadband infrastructure, council grants, training support schemes run by councils, Regional Selective Assistance grants, innovation grants and even the grants for the graduate interns are all EU funded. It should also come to the fore during the debate on Scotland’s future because right now the only way of ensuring Scotland’s continued membership of the European Union is with a yes vote in 2014.
David Cameron claimed last year that the Scottish independence referendum was causing economic uncertainty, despite an Ernst and Young report showing Scotland performing better than any other part of the UK in attracting foreign direct investment. However, if the UK looks like it will leave the EU, then there must be even more uncertainty about jobs coming to the UK – a massive own goal by the Westminster Government. If an American company is looking to build a plant that will trade in the EU the plant’s host country obviously has to be in the EU. Whether Scotland remains in the UK is not the concern. Instead, the issue is our continued membership of the common market across this continent. Scotland as an independent country would still be in the EU, but now there is a realistic chance that the whole of the UK (what’s left of it anyway) will leave in 2016.
It is all politics
So what is Cameron up to and will we still get a referendum if the Conservatives lose the next general election?
By announcing an EU referendum, Cameron is trying to cut off the flow of Tory voters to Ukip (stage one in the “how to win the next election” playbook). If Labour don’t also offer an EU referendum than Cameron will take vital votes back from Ukip in the last few weeks of the campaign and might even get a majority. He may, however, struggle to win the EU referendum that follows. Short-term gain, long-term trouble. The Liberal vote last time benefited from being a safe haven for undecided voters but most political commentators agree they will suffer badly at the next UK general election in 2015. Cameron’s political challenge is to gain as many of those votes as possible. Meantime, however, Scotland’s place in the European Union is threatened and we face much more uncertainty from Westminster policies than we do from the opportunity to decide our own constitutional future in Scotland.
Will there be an EU referendum if Labour win?
In my view, Labour will also have to offer the EU referendum or they will lose the General election and massive Eurosceptic vote in England, the Eurosceptics are not just right wing supporters they are often New Labour supporters. Going into the next election telling a Eurosceptic English electorate that they are not going to offer them a democratic choice on the EU is tantamount to political suicide. Mid-term in the parliamentary term, Labour’s lead over the Conservatives in the polls is way behind where it should be if they are to win next time around. Let’s see where the polls and EU referendum policies are next Autumn.
The UK or by then rUK is getting an EU referendum one way or another, the Tories may well win the next general election outright, the mid-term Labour lead is nowhere near where it needs to be . It all depends on the economy turning the corner, and, in part, the political impact at Westminster if Scotland votes ‘Yes’ to independence.
Interestingly, when asked how they would vote in a the Yes/No referendum if they thought the Conservatives would win again – 52% of Scots said YES. The ‘No’ campaign describes Scotland’s growing wish for self determination and self governance as isolation and separatist, but it appears that the people of Scotland want to be more international – part of Europe and the EU. With Westminster taking the devo max option off the table, and adding an in/out referendum on EU membership, the UK model looks less like a vehicle for delivering what the Scottish people want by the day.
Scotland deserves debate on Europe – Newsnet Scotland
Scotland and the EU – The polling evidence – Newsnet Scotland
Support Business for Scotland, as we convince the business community of the benefits of voting Yes in 2014 – Read More