The EU’s Scottish Question



Fabian Zuleeg | European Policy Centre

“The country [UK] appears deeply divided, between different population groups and geographically, with London, Northern Ireland and Scotland voting strongly to remain in. At the very least, this raises the spectre of Scottish independence again, with the political future of the continuation of the UK now in doubt.”

“In a world of great trading blocks, the EU is the best means we are ever likely to have for expanding free trade while preserving social protections. In an age where the voices of protectionism and intolerance often seem to be getting louder, the EU amplifies our own support for openness, diversity and human rights. And at a time when the rules-based international order is being threatened, the EU exemplifies the value of co-operation and solidarity.”


One of the unintended consequences of the Brexit vote almost three years ago has been the re-opening of the question of the United Kingdom’s territorial integrity. Most of the focus has, naturally, been on Northern Ireland, given the historical context and the challenge a hard border would constitute for the peace process. With Ireland being a member state, the European Union (EU) has done everything to try to find a sustainable solution to keep the border frictionless, including insisting on a backstop arrangement.

Less attention has been paid to the situation in Scotland, not least since the historical context is very different. Yet Scotland voted strongly against leaving the EU: 62% of Scottish voters voted remain, while only 38% voted to leave – a higher remain vote than in Northern Ireland. Every single one of the 32 Local Authority areas in Scotland returned a majority for remain. If anything, this sentiment has become stronger, with polls suggesting that two-thirds of Scottish voters now support remaining in the European Union.

In the current constitutional set-up, Scotland would have no choice but to leave the EU together with the rest of the UK if and when that step is finally taken. But there has been an independence movement in Scotland for a number of years now, and the current minority Scottish government is run by the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has been advocating Scottish independence within the EU for some time.

EU Scottish Question


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