Scottish Voters Want EU Referendum, Back Staying In, Poll Shows

Most Scots support Prime Minister David Cameron in wanting a referendum on the U.K.’s membership of the European Union, according to a poll published today.

A majority of Scots would vote to stay in the 27-nation bloc and more than 60 percent say an independent Scotland should be a member of the EU, irrespective of their views on whether the country should quit the U.K., according to the Ipsos MORI survey published in today’s London-based Times newspaper.

A government led by Cameron after the next general election due in 2015 would renegotiate the U.K.’s membership and put the revised terms to a vote offering the option of leaving the EU. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told lawmakers last month he is against the idea.

“What is clear from our latest poll is that there is a more favorable view of the EU than exists south of the border,” Mark Diffley, director at Ipsos MORI Scotland, said in the Times. “The issue of EU membership is not the same politically explosive issue in Scotland as it is in England.”

Holding a referendum was backed by 58 percent of respondents, with 36 percent opposed, according to the poll. Fifty-three percent would vote to stay in the EU and 34 percent would leave. Sixty-one percent said an independent Scotland should be part of the EU, with 33 percent wanting it to be outside the bloc.

A similar poll carried out by Ipsos MORI in England, Scotland and Wales in November showed 48 percent wanted to leave and 44 percent were in favor of remaining members.

An independent Scotland within the EU is the flagship policy of Salmond’s Scottish National Party government, which is planning to hold an independence referendum in the fall of next year.

Government Opinion

Scotland would have to reapply for EU membership and every other body it belongs to as part of the U.K. if its votes for independence, according to a legal opinion published by the U.K. government three days ago.

Salmond has asserted that an independent Scotland would automatically have EU membership. Legal action last year resulted in him telling lawmakers he hadn’t sought a legal opinion to underpin his statements.

An Ipsos MORI poll yesterday showed that support for independence among young people is increasing and helping to close the gap with the majority of voters who want to stay in the U.K.

Backing for independence rose to 34 percent of respondents, while those in favor of retaining the status quo fell to 55 percent, according to the survey published in yesterday’s Times. The 21 percentage-point gap compares with 28 points in October and 20 points in June, based on reports from the same pollster.

Since the last Ipsos MORI poll in October, support for independence among 18-24-year-olds more than doubled to 58 percent from 27 percent. Still, only 60 percent of that age group said they were certain to vote in the referendum, compared with 80 percent of older voters, the pollster said.

Today’s poll was conducted Feb. 4 to Feb. 9 among 1,003 voters. No margin of error was given.

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