Will the EU referendum trigger the break-up of the United Kingdom?

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Will the EU referendum trigger the break-up of the United Kingdom?

If England drags Scotland out of the EU, there will be trouble. But if Scotland keeps England inside, it could be double

People fly the British and Scottish flags outside the Scottish Parliament prior to the debate on the future of Scotland

The fact that so many Scottish business people are terrified of the possible consequences of backing the unionist case confirms that something has gone very wrong Photo: Alamy

By Prof Richard Rose

4:45PM GMT 18 Feb 2016

Comments1063 Comments

On the night of the EU referendum, there will be three counts that matter. The first will show whether there is an overall British majority for staying in or leaving the EU. The second will show whether English voters are on the winning or the losing side. The third will show how likely it is that the United Kingdom will stay together.

"conflict between Britain's nations on future relations with the EU would be a huge headache to the Prime Minister"

That might sound drastic to some readers. But large differences in support for the EU among different nations of the UK mean that many potential results are bad for the Union. Unless England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all agree in their answers to the referendum question, factions in each will be able to reject the result as illegitimate.

England contributes five sixths of the British electorate. To produce a UK majority for leaving the EU, regardless of the preference of other Britons, would therefore require 61 percent of English voters to endorse Brexit.

Opinion polls, however, show English voters tend to be evenly divided, and often in favour of Brexit. Even if a British poll reported 51 per cent in favour of remaining in the EU, a majority of English respondents would be in favour of Brexit. This is because other UK nations are much more pro-European.

The National Centre for Social Research calculates that 55 per cent of Welsh, 64 per cent of Scots and 75 per cent of Ulster voters endorse the European Union on the basis of more than a dozen polls taken in the past year.

These numbers are also more stable than the equivalent figures in England.

So collectively, Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish voters will contribute about 11 per cent of the pro-EU vote. English voters would only have to add another 40 per cent to the UK total to create an absolute majority keeping the UK in Europe. But that would mean most English voters had endorsed leaving the European Union – only to have their wishes overriden by the other UK nations.

On the other hand, if 53 per cent of English voters voted to leave the EU, this would be enough to take the UK out of Europe against the preference of a majority of Scots, Welsh and Ulster voters.

The only result which would keep the UK united would be a narrow English majority in favour of remaining in the EU. In that scenario, all four parts of the United Kingdom were of one mind. For this to be true we would expect to see a UK-wide majority of more than 53 per cent.

On the basis of current polling, that is unlikely. Of 30 major British polls I have analysed, only ten reported a pro-EU majority so large that most English respondents agreed with their fellow Britons. An additional 13 polls showed majorities of up to 53 percent in favour of remaining in the EU, but such a narrow lead implies that most English people would be held in Europe against their will. And seven of the 30 polls actually showed enough English opposition to the EU to overpower the other nations' leads.

A conflict between Britain's nations on future relations with the EU would be a huge headache to the Prime Minister. Part of the argument for Scottish independence in 2014 was that England would no longer be able to "impose" decisions on Scotland. An English-led withdrawal of the UK from the European Union could trigger another referendum in Scotland on the linked issues of leaving the UK and joining Europe. That would confront the Westminster government with simultaneously negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from Europe and Scotland’s withdrawal from the UK.

Yet the opposite outcome – a UK majority to remain in the EU, and an English majority to leave – would also be a nightmare for Downing Street. Conservative Eurosceptics could denounce the result as illegitimate, but it would be politically impossible for the Eurosceptics to win a referendum on the issue of England withdrawing from the United Kingdom.

Even if a narrow English majority went along with other Britons and voted to stay in the EU, there could still be an absolute majority of Conservatives voting to leave. Determined Eurosceptics could then adopt Jeremy Corbyn's doctrine that the party leader should represent his party's members. This argument could be used as a weapon to extract promises of further anti-EU actions from Cabinet ministers wanting to succeed David Cameron as the next Conservative prime minister.

Whatever the feelings of English voters on the emotive issue of Europe, there is no escaping the fact that the outcome of the forthcoming EU referendum will be decided by the total vote of the United Kingdom. That is the price England pays for being British.

Richard Rose is a professor of public policy at University of Strathclyde Glasgow and a commissioning fund awardee of Home - UK in a changing Europe


Home - UK in a changing Europe

The authoritative source for rigorous high-quality academic research on UK-EU relations


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Scotland would be better off as an 'independent' EU member, Nicola Sturgeon says

The Scottish First Minister says that the EU is “not a perfect institution” but that it “it is better for us in all circumstances to stay in”.

By Christopher Hope, and Ben Riley-Smith

5:52PM GMT 20 Feb 2016

Scotland would be better off as an “independent” member of the European Union, Nicola Sturgeon has suggested.

The Scottish First Minister said that the EU is “not a perfect institution” but that it “it is better for us in all circumstances to stay in”.

Repeating her calls for Scottish independence, she said that she believes her country would be best served as an “independent member state” of the bloc.

Ms Sturgeon has named ‘Brexit’ as one of the few triggers that could lead to a snap referendum on the country’s independence.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The EU is a 'coming together' of independent states that choose to pool some of their sovereignty to better tackle those issues that don't respect national boundaries - like climate change, energy security and the refugee crisis.

"It's not a perfect institution - and while I believe it would be best for Scotland to be in the EU as an independent member state, I believe it is better for us in all circumstances to stay in."

The in-out referendum on EU membership will be held on June 23 - seven weeks after the elections to the Scottish Parliament in which the SNP is riding high in the polls.

Scotland's SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon leaves the BBC studios in central London after appearing on a television political program

Polls have also consistently shown that Scotland is more in favour of remaining in the EU than the rest of the UK, and a vote to leave against the majority will of the Scottish people has been suggested as a possible trigger for another independence referendum.

Brexit could also have a concrete impact on Scots who benefit from EU subsidises and exporting to the Continent without trade barriers.

Britain Stronger In Europe, the pro-EU campaign, has said that exports from Scotland to the Continent are worth an estimated £11.6 billion.


Councils, public bodies and student unions to be barred from boycotting "unethical" firms

Proposals to stop town halls boycotting Israeli goods triggers warnings of an 'attack' on local democracy amid fears of wider impact

Minister of State for Business Matt Hancock

Minister of State for Business Matt Hancock Photo: REX FEATURES


By Ben Riley-Smith, Political Correspondent

9:30AM GMT 15 Feb 2016

Ministers have been accused of launching an "attack" on local democracy after revealing plans to ban councils, public bodies and student unions by law from boycotting "unethical" companies.

Matt Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, revealed plans to block "counterproductive" boycotts of Israeli companies by town halls and other public bodies over the weekend.

Mr Hancock, who will formally announce the change during a visit to Israel this week, has said council bans were "undermining our national security".

Pro Palestinian protester burns an Israeli flag during demonstration Pro Palestinian protester burns an Israeli flag during demonstration   Photo: REUTERS

However Jeremy Corbyn and human rights campaigners warned the change would have far wider consequences that would stop publicly funded institutions not funding unethical companies.

There are fears they will lose the freedom to refuse to buy goods and services from firms involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels and tobacco products.

A spokesman for the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told The Independent: "The Government's decision to ban councils and other public bodies from divesting from trade or investments they regard as unethical is an attack on local democracy.

The Houses of ParliamentThe Houses of Parliament

"People have the right to elect local representatives able to make decisions free of central government political control. That includes withdrawal of investments or procurement on ethical and human rights grounds.

"This Government's ban would have outlawed council action against apartheid South Africa. Ministers talk about devolution, but in practice they're imposing Conservative Party policies on elected local councils across the board."

Mr Hancock said: "We need to challenge and prevent these divisive town-hall boycotts. The new guidance on procurement combined with changes we are making to how pension pots can be invested will help prevent damaging and counterproductive local foreign policies undermining our national security."

Jeremy Corbyn during PMQsJeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, during Prime Minister?s Questions  Photo: PA

Peter Frankental, Amnesty International's UK economic relations programme director, said: "All public bodies should assess the social and environment impacts of any company with whom they choose to enter into business relationships.

"Where's the incentive for companies to ensure there are no human rights violations such as slavery in their supply chains, when public bodies cannot hold them to account by refusing to award them contracts?

"Not only would it be a bad reflection on public bodies to contract with rogue companies, but it would also be bad for responsible businesses that are at risk of being undercut by those that have poor practices."


SNP membership jumps by 89,460 to over 115,000

The party's membership has swelled since the referendum. Picture: Lisa Ferguson


15:53Wednesday 17 February 2016



MEMBERSHIP of the SNP has surged to more than 115,000, an increase of 89,460 on the number of people in the party when the independence referendum was held on 18 September 2014.

The figures published by the party mean the nationalists are the largest party in Scotland and the third-biggest in the UK, with only Labour and the Conservatives having more members.

SNP business convener Derek Mackay said the increase in membership was “extraordinary” and showed that the party was well-placed to win a third term in power in May’s Holyrood election.

He said: “The incredible upsurge in SNP membership shows no signs of stopping – with membership now over 115,000, putting the party in a very strong position as we seek to secure the re-election of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister and a historic third-term in office.

“This extraordinary increase in membership makes clear that it is the SNP which people trust to stand up for Scotland’s best interests – in contrast to a Labour party in complete disarray north and south of the border, and a Tory party plotting to cut Scotland’s budget by the backdoor.”

Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/snp-membership-jumps-by-89-460-to-over-115-000-1-4033361#ixzz40XBUX4UA
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Ruth Davidson: Tories ‘real alternative’ to SNP

Scottish Conservative Party Leader Ruth Davidson aims to become the main opposition party leader in

08:41Friday 19 February 2016



Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has set her sights on deposing “blundering” Labour as Scotland’s main opposition, as she attacked Kezia Dugdale’s “weak” defence of the United Kingdom.

Several recent polls have shown the Conservatives are gaining on Labour in the race to be Holyrood’s second biggest party amid the ongoing dominance of the SNP.

In a speech in Stirling today, Ms Davidson will attempt to gain further ground by appealing to the two million people who voted No to independence to reject the SNP and the “chaotic” appeasement of nationalists within Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

But Labour said Ms Davidson cannot claim to be a supporter of the Union after cheering on David Cameron’s “despicable campaign that set England and Scotland against each other” in the general ­election.

READ MORE: John Swinney in denial over scale of council cuts

Commenting ahead of her speech, Ms Davidson said: “If voters choose not to change the party of government in 11 weeks’ time, they should consider changing the official opposition.

“In nine years, Labour hasn’t landed a glove on the SNP - but we are committed to holding the Scottish Government to account, to keep it concentrated on the day job and away from referendum threats.”

Read more:http://www.scotsman.com/news/ruth-davidson-tories-real-alternative-to-snp-1-4034404#ixzz40cbNxaJc
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Tommy Sheridan to stand as MSP


12:25Thursday 18 February 2016

SHAMED former MSP Tommy Sheridan is making a bid to return to politics.

The Solidarity co-leader has launched a campaign to be elected an an MSP for the Glasgow region in May’s Scottish Parliament election -

five years after he was jailed for perjury.

Mr Sheridan, who was an MSP from 1999 to 2007, tops the pro-independence party’s list for the area.

His wife Gail is also running for Holyrood, and is first on the list for the West of Scotland region.

Mr Sheridan was sentenced to three years in jail in 2011 after being convicted of lying in a libel case that saw him win £200,000

from the now defunct News Of The World newspaper.

He was released in 2012 after spending a year behind bars.

Solidarity currently has no MSPs at Holyrood, after Mr Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne, who was also an MSP for the party, were defeated in 2007.

But the left-wing party is campaigning to win seats on the regional list in May, with the aim of securing a second independence referendum.

Mr Sheridan appealed to nationalists who are voting for the SNP in the constituency section of the ballot to give their second vote to him.

He said: “The SNP are on course to win all nine constituency seats in Glasgow. That will mean that 90% of their list votes will not count and will be wasted.

 This will allow unionist parties to benefit.

“I urge the people of Glasgow not to waste their second vote. Make it count by giving it to Solidarity and elect me to fight for a second independence

 referendum, public ownership of public services and trade union rights, and fight against the renewal

Read more:http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tommy-sheridan-to-stand-as-msp-1-4033918#ixzz40XCw48CN

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Emma Thompson: Britain is a ‘cake-filled misery-laden grey old island’

Emma Thompson. Picture: PA
Emma Thompson. Picture: PA

13:32Wednesday 17 February 2016


Movie star Emma Thompson has faced a backlash after warning it would be “madness” for the UK to vote to leave the European Union.

The Love Actually actress warned that a vote for an exit from the EU was a “crazy idea” and delivered a bizarre tribute to Britain as a “cake-filled” and “misery-laden” island.

Tory MP Stewart Jackson dismissed Thompson’s comments, branding her an “overpaid, leftie luvvie” while fellow Conservative Eurosceptic Steve Baker accused her of “doing our country down”.

Thompson made the comments while promoting new film Alone In Berlin at a press conference in the German capital on Monday.

She described living in “a tiny little cloud-bolted, rainy corner of sort-of Europe ... a cake-filled misery-laden grey old island”.

Asked how she would vote in the upcoming referendum, she said: “I feel European even though I live in Great Britain, and in Scotland as well.

“So of course I’m going to vote to stay in Europe. Are you kidding? Oh my God, of course. It would be madness not to. It’s a crazy idea not to. We should be taking down borders, not putting them up.”

Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/emma-thompson-britain-is-a-cake-filled-misery-laden-grey-old-island-1-4033152#ixzz40XEY61qG
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 John Swinney in “denial” over scale of council cuts

Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Phil Wilkinson


21:08Thursday 18 February 2016


DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney has come under fire after claiming £500 million of cuts to local authorities around Scotland will have a “minimal” impact on jobs and services.

Yesterday Angus Council axed 155 staff while local government body Cosla has warned 15,000 jobs will be lost across Scotland.

Labour and union chiefs claim Mr Swinney is in “denial” about the impact of the cuts.

Council leaders have been locked in a bitter dispute with the Scottish Government over the proposed budget for 2016-17, which proposes swingeing reductions in spending. Mr Swinney has also ruled out the prospect of any council tax increase and demanded teachers numbers be maintained.

But the Finance Secretary played down the likely effect of the reductions in a parliamentary response to Labour’s Jackie Baillie.

“I believe that such a reduction should have minimal impact on the jobs or services,” he said.

“Scotland’s councils should be able to address these challenges from a healthy base as local government funding has been rising in Scotland in recent years with core funding protected and new money ­provided for additional responsibilities.”

Scottish Labour has proposed a 1p rise in income tax under Holyrood’s new powers to mitigate the impact of the cuts and boost education, but this was rejected by MSPs earlier this month.

Labour has claimed the SNP is simply passing on Tory austerity measures.

Labour’s public services spokeswoman Ms Baillie said: “The SNP are in complete and utter denial about the damage their budget will do to Scotland.

“As councils up and down the country are forced to make swingeing cuts to jobs and services because of the SNP budget, for John Swinney to claim that any impact would be minimal is simply laughable.”

Unite regional officer Willie McGonigle said 40,000 local government jobs have gone since 2010, with a further15,000 likely to go as a result of the Scottish Government’s cuts.

He added: “To suggest the budget cuts will have ‘a minimal impact on jobs or services’ is frankly astounding. The impact on local services and livelihoods will be significant and there is no getting away from this, however much the Scottish Government may try to do so.”

Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/john-swinney-in-denial-over-scale-of-council-cuts-1-4034218#ixzz40cgU1Ote
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