Much of what happens in the Brexit debate we should probably take with a large pinch of salt, whether or not it comes from a camp you favour or not. It’s a bit of a leap into the dark, so not all of the consequences, either way, can be reliably foreseen.
It’s likely to be a class of Project Fear Mk II. One line to be particularly sceptical of is the idea that if the UK comes out of the EU, Scotland will automatically vote to go back in again.
The problem for the Remain camp is that nobody really loves the European Union they way that they undoubtedly love Scotland.
Yet the commensurate problem for the Out groups is that no one has yet given sufficiently resoundingly good reason to leave what is still (for the UK at least) just a little more than a glorified customs union.
Of the two, I’d argue that the latter has by far the bigger mountain to climb – with or without the ebullient and Sisyphean efforts of the outsize figure of the Mayor of London.
Inertia can be a powerful force in politics, and foreign policy (albeit one that comes with considerable domestic burdens) is rarely a great lifter of votes.
Now, extend that principle and hypothetically push it beyond that point the UK votes for Brexit?
The same inertia issues will appear on the deficit side of anyone plump for leaving the UK ostensibly in order to re-join the EU (and possibly a far from stable Eurozone).
Two thoughts. If Brexit occurs it will imply little less than an ignominious collapse for the Remain side.
Selling something to Scotland that the whole of the UK has rejected won’t be easy: especially if it means re-addressing the tricky issues that brought defeat for the Independence side less than two years earlier.
Secondly, the assumption that Scotland and England significantly diverge on the matter of the European Union is doubtful. Enter our old friend/enemy the Social Attitudes survey. The latest Scottish survey suggests that in fact there is very little divergence:
According to the research, based on the annual Scottish Social Attitudes survey carried out between July 2015 and January this year, 43% of respondents want the EU’s powers reduced and 17% want to leave, more than at any time since 1999. This compares with 43% favouring reduced powers and 22% wanting to leave the UK as a whole.
In the tense, over dramatised and polarising atmosphere of a referendum campaign we might well see these figures shift (and given the ‘posh chaps’ who make up the dramatis personae of the Out campaign) possibly diverge.
But these ‘at rest’ attitudes suggest Euroscepticism amongst real people (and not just active voters) in both parts of John Bull’s island is largely confined to reform rather than Brexit per se.