John Curtice: Scots views on EU mirror those of rest of UK

Scotland seems set to vote decisively to Remain in the EU. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Scotland seems set to vote decisively to Remain in the EU. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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Scottish views on the merits of the EU broadly mirror those across the whole of the UK, writes polling expert Professor John Curtice.

Whatever the uncertainty about the outcome of the EU referendum across the UK as a whole, there appears to be little doubt about what Scotland will do. The country seems set to vote decisively to remain.

Once Don’t Knows are left to one side, our latest ICM poll of opinion in Scotland puts Remain on 63 per cent and Leave on just 37 per cent. This represents a four point swing to Remain compared with our previous poll at the beginning of March.

The figures stand in sharp contrast to those in ICM’s most recent Britain-wide poll.

That put Leave narrowly ahead on 52 per cent, with Remain on 48 per cent.

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Not that Scotland is united on the issue. Much as is the case south of the Border, younger voters are keener than older voters on staying. Equally middle class voters are more inclined than those in working class occupations to vote to Remain.

But at the same time, both younger and older Scots, and both middle class and working class ones, are all more inclined to vote to Remain than their equivalents in England.

Not least of the reasons are the pro-European stance of the SNP, together with the much lower profile that UKIP enjoys north of the Border.

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However, Nationalist supporters are not as united as the party often suggests. Only 58 per cent of SNP supporters say they will vote to Remain, while 42 per cent state they will back Leave.

Such figures leave SNP supporters looking less Euro-enthusiastic than their Labour counterparts, three-quarters of whom (75 per cent) state that they will vote to Remain.

Evidently there is a not inconsiderable current of SNP support that is not sure it wants Scotland to achieve independence only then to continue to throw in its lot with the EU.

Meanwhile, Scots’ views on the relative merits of remaining in or leaving the EU also largely mirror those across Britain as a whole.

On the one hand, they are inclined to the view that leaving would be bad for the economy. Nearly half (48 per cent) reckon it would be, while just a third (33 per cent) think it would be beneficial.

But at the same time, 43 per cent think the number of immigrants into Scotland will be higher if the UK votes to remain. They slightly outnumber the 41 per cent who believe the level of immigration will either be the same (33 per cent) or even fall (8 per cent).

However, it would appear that for most Scots the perceived economic consequences of leaving are more pressing than whatever they think might happen to immigration. Still, at least these are both issues where most voters accept that remaining or leaving will make a difference one way or the other. In contrast, despite the claims made by both sides, most do not feel the choice has implications for the country’s vulnerability to terrorism.

While 41 per cent think leaving would make the country more (24 per cent) or less (17 per cent) vulnerable, 48 per cent believe it would not make any difference.

Both sides need to remember they will only make progress in the next month if their arguments have credibility in voters’ eyes.

John Curtice is Professor of Politics, University of Strathclyde