Ah Europe, that sprawling land mass that can always be relied upon to split the Tories. The leader believes he has to stay in Europe to win elections, the right of the party howl in protest at the idea of ‘Brussels’ running anything for Britain.
We may however be veering closer to a situation where David Cameron doesn’t have to lean Doverwards to be on the side of the majority of the electorate. An Opinium/Guardian poll found that 56% of the UK is in favour of leaving the European Union – 69% of Tory voters, 44% of Labour voters and even 39% of Lib Dem voters, the cheese eating, sandal wearing surrender monkeys, for want of a better description.
It’s enough to make out-of-the-closet Europhiles like myself throw my hands up in disgust. Infact I’m going to do it…. There. Can’t say I feel any better for it, but the people on this bus think I’m a bit weird. Maybe they’ll think I’m European, I do after all have a strikingly colourful’ shirt tie combo on.
Europe doesn’t help itself at all well, I get that of course. That the accounts haven’t been signed off for donkey’s years shows that if it was any other business it’d be shut down by now. The Euro mess needs no further criticism, the lack of interest in our MEPs speaks volumes and the proposed budget increases for 2014-2020 have not been sold at all well. Why should fat Eurocrats cream it in while everyone else is making cuts? Je ne sais pas.
So, back to that 56%, because as disheartened as I am by it as one signed up to the European project, I did sense an opportunity for a pro-independence perspective.
I have long believed that Europe offers Alex Salmond one of his best routes to winning the referendum in 2014. With Tories riven over Europe and England clearly on their way to pulling out of the EU, a distinctly pro-EU would see that the only way to keep a seat at the table would be to make it a solely Scottish seat after breaking away from the UK. The cross border differences over a relationship with Europe would be symbolic for the many different political outlooks between Scotland and England.
However, does the polling evidence bear this out? Well, sadly not as much as I would have expected to be honest as te following poll question from the Opinium poll shows:
If a referendum were held on the UK’s membership of the European Union with the options being to remain a member or withdraw, how do you think you would vote?
Vote to Leave/Vote to Stay
A 18% gap between leavers and stayers in Scotland is certainly better than the 27% gap above, but I wouldn’t look at those answers and automatically think the two countries should separate. The gap for London incidentally is also 18% and for Yorkshire and Humberside it is a curious 14%. Scotland is that dreaded thing for Nats, just another region in a UK poll.
Looking closer at the figures does give me more heart. Of the UK’s 56%, that is split 34% “definitely” vote to leave the EU and 22% “probably” vote to leave. Scotland’s breakdown is a less certain 26%/23%, the 26% of definites being the lowest of any region. It is a similar story for those saying they’d vote to stay in the EU, Scotland’s share of definites is 14%, along with London the highest of any region, so there are strong arguments to say that Scotland is the most pro-EU part of the United Kingdom and I am clinging onto my theory, but only just.
Perhaps the rest of the poll is where those that are pro-Indy should really take heart. Ed Miliband has no higher approval ratings in Scotland than the rest of the UK, David Cameron remains deeply unpopular and Nick Clegg even more so than the Prime Minister.
Half of Scotland may want out of the EU, but more still are unimpressed with our UK leaders. That can’t be bad news for Salmond who is still surfing a remarkably long wave of popularity, and it can’t be bad for independence either.