John Curtice: Scots attitudes to Brexit in line with rest of UK

Attitudes in Scotland towards Brexit are not so very different from those in the rest of Britain, polling has found. Picture: Scott Louden/TSPL
Attitudes in Scotland towards Brexit are not so very different from those in the rest of Britain, polling has found. Picture: Scott Louden/TSPL
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Scots are looking for similar outcomes from Brexit as those living elsewhere in the UK, writes Professor John Curtice

Scotland voted very differently from the rest of the UK in the EU referendum. You might therefore presume that it has very distinctive views about what Brexit should mean.

It has said Scotland should be able to remain in the single market and continue to allow freedom of movement for EU citizens, the very opposite of the deal the UK government is seeking.

Until now nobody has checked that this assumption is correct. There has been virtually no polling on attitudes in Scotland towards Brexit.

That gap is filled today by ScotCen Social Research.

It finds that attitudes in Scotland towards Brexit are not so very different from those in the rest of Britain after all. Rather voters in Scotland seem to want what voters elsewhere want – free trade but not freedom of movement.

Support for free trade is virtually universal. As many as 93% of people in Scotland say that EU companies should be able to trade freely in Britain and British firms in the EU. At 88%, the equivalent figure for Britain as a whole is only a little lower.

At the same time, Scotland shares much of the mood south of the border that migration between the UK and the EU should be subject to greater control.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) think people who want to come to Britain to live should have to apply to do so in the same way non-EU migrants have to do. Only 22% say they actually oppose such a move. These figures are only a little different from those for Britain as a whole – 68% in favour, 15% opposed.

Moreover, voters seem to recognise that ending freedom of movement means that British citizens who wish to move to an EU country should be subject to a similar process. As many as 72% of Scots think that someone who wants to live and work in an EU country should have to apply to do so.

Meanwhile, there is little sign that voters north of the border back the Scottish Government’s idea floated that the country should have a closer relationship with the EU than the rest of Britain. As many as 62% think that the rules on immigration from the EU should be the same in Scotland as in England and Wales, and exactly the same proportion say the same about the rules on trade with the EU.

Just 25% believe that it should easier for someone from the EU to move to Scotland, and only a somewhat higher proportion, 34%, would be happy to see a more liberal regime on trade.

Following the apparent reluctance by the UK government to acknowledge the Scottish Government’s vision for Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon now wants to hold an independence referendum. Trouble is, it’s clear Scots would be that unhappy with Mrs May’s kind of Brexit after all.

Professor John Curtice is senior research fellow at ScotCen Social Research