Brexit: Scots Leave voters far from Little Englanders

AS THE fall-out from the EU referendum result continues, voters in Scotland who backed the Leave campaign are keen to make their voices heard.

Over a million Scots voted for the UK to leave the European Union.  Picture Ian Rutherford
Over a million Scots voted for the UK to leave the European Union. Picture Ian Rutherford

A clear majority of Scots backed the UK’s continued membership of the EU, but just over a million voted for Brexit.

Although they backed the winning side - with Leave polling 52 per cent across the UK - they find themselves in the strange position of being in the minority in their homeland.

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While hundreds gathered at Holyrood to display their support of the EU, there have been no similar public demonstrations demanding Brexit to be sped up.

The ruins of Elgin Cathedral in Moray. The north-east county had the closest result in the recent EU referendum north of the border, with Remain winning by just 122 votes. Picture: Thinkstock
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The Scottish Government last week won the backing of a majority of MSPs to begin talks with Brussels to find a way to preserve Scotland’s links with the EU.

Much of the discourse among politicians and the press has since pegged Scotland as a firm supporter of the EU. But many Scots beg to differ.

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The closest result north of the border was in Moray. The Remain campaign won the north-east county by just 122 votes.

Among the locals who backed Leave was Dougie Sharpe. The 39-year-old fine art graduate from Forres voted SNP in May’s election and was a Yes voter in 2014, but rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s arguments in favour of the EU.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to do everything in her power to retain Scotland's links with the EU. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

“Leave voters have been characterised as xenophobic or anti-immigrant, which is unfair,” he said. “There seems to be a split on the EU among those voted Yes to Scottish independence. I don’t believe many of those backed Remain would back the Scotland to leave the UK.

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“I voted Yes in 2014 as I wanted to see change in this country. If anything, the situation since then has got worse. For me, a vote to Leave was a vote for change rather than pointing the finger at anyone.

“But I think the UK may not exit the EU anyway. At the moment I don’t see many people standing up, saying they want to take Brexit forward.”

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Recent polling suggested SNP supporters were more likely to have voted for Brexit than Scottish Labour or Lib Dem voters.

The ruins of Elgin Cathedral in Moray. The north-east county had the closest result in the recent EU referendum north of the border, with Remain winning by just 122 votes. Picture: Thinkstock
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A Survation poll found 71 per cent of SNP supporters voted Remain – compared to 84 per cent of Lib Dems and 83 per cent of Labour voters.

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Support for Leave was spread across urban and rural areas of Scotland.

Jim Cameron, a journalist from Glasgow, is a former Labour voter who switched his support to the SNP. The 56-year-old said he could not bring himself to support the EU from a left-wing perspective.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to do everything in her power to retain Scotland's links with the EU. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

“I had felt uncomfortable siding with big banks like JP Morgan, which were backing Remain,” he said.

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“When I heard about TTIP and what it could mean to our NHS, and how the EU were actively pursuing this deal, I decided to vote Leave.

“Now the Nationalists are pushing us back in.

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“People say: ‘look at what the EU has done for us’, but it’s precious little from what I can see. Pretty much all the rights working people have were won by the organised unions - they were not a gift from the bosses.”

Some Leave voters are unhappy that Scotland has been portrayed as being firmly pro-EU.

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“There are ordinary Scots with different opinions who are being forgotten,” said Christine McConnell, who works in higher education.

A Conservative voter from North Lanarkshire, Christine is concerned by the prospect of a second referendum on independence.

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“It’s disingenuous to tie in the vote on the EU with independence. We voted to back Leave or Remain as part of the UK, not Scotland,” she added.

“I don’t think the EU is serving the interests of many countries in Europe, ourselves included. Youth unemployment in places like Spain and Italy is very worrying. I don’t see how an organisation so big can meet the needs of so many diverse countries.

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Christine said she was disappointed in the timing of David Cameron’s resignation as Prime Minister.

“It created a vacuum,” she said. “He is still the leader and should be seen to be the leader.”