Magazine article Public Finance

Scotland's Other Referendum

Magazine article Public Finance

Scotland's Other Referendum

Article excerpt

First there was one referendum, then there were two. The referendum on Scottish independence will take place in the autumn of 2014, but now there's the possibility of a referendum on British independence from the European Union. This would happen by the end of 2017 if David Cameron's Conservatives win the next UK general election.

What impact, if any, will the EU campaign have on the Scottish one? Well, it is not an easy question to answer, because the Scottish voters have not been asked for their views on Europe for some considerable time. Opinion polling is patchy and unreliable. There is a presumption that the Scots are more in favour of the EU than England, hut this has yet to be tested where it counts: at the ballot box.

What is certain is that Scotland's political culture is more pro-European than England's. You simply do not get the visceral hostility to Europe that is common in the Southeast of England.

This is largely because the Conservative party is a marginal force in Scottish politics - the Tories have only one parliamentary seat. The political landscape is dominated by Labour and the Scottish National Party, both of which are broadly pro-European.

The nationalists in 1989 adopted Independence in Europe as the foundation of their programme. The EU is central to their hopes of turning Scotland into one of the small northern European social democratic nations.

Labour is also pro-European, at least in that it doesn't favour any referendum on Britain's continued membership of it.

Scottish voters feel they benefit from many of the social protections that have been enshrined in the European treaties, including the Social Chapter and the Working Time Directive. Scots are broadly in favour of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, at least to the extent that compliance with the Human Rights Act is written into the Scotland Act that set up Holywood. …

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