One month to go: Scots confident of keeping EU membership
By Benjamin Fox
With one month to go until Scotland’s referendum on independence from the UK on 18 September, polls indicate the Yes side is gaining ground.
A new survey by ICM published on Monday (18 August) showed the pro-independence Yes campaign has closed the gap on the No side by two points over the past month, even though voters would still back continued UK membership by 55 percent to 45 percent.
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The poll also found that 64 percent of Scots expect an independent Scotland to be re-admitted to the EU, while just 15 percent think it would be excluded.
At the same time, the proportion of Scots who think their country should be part of the EU is getting smaller: 50 percent said Scotland should stay in the club, while 31 percent said it should leave - a sharp rise in eurosceptic sentiment.
The claim that Scotland would have to formally re-apply to join the EU, facing a drawn out and uncertain accession process, has been one of the main arguments used by the No campaign.
They have also argued that Scotland would lose its share of the UK’s rebate from the EU budget.
A statement by the Yes side said the ICM findings demonstrate that Scots regard the claim as “just another ridiculous scare story”.
For its part, the pro-Union Better Together campaign noted that “experts, the leaders of the European Commission and the prime minister of Spain, have all said we would need to reapply to join the EU if we left the UK”.
Scottish first minister Alex Salmond will square off next week against Alistair Darling, the leader of the Better Together campaign, in a second TV debate.
In an increasingly bad-tempered atmosphere, the Yes campaign has been weakened by confusion over whether Scotland could continue to use the British pound as its currency.
Both the governing Conservative party and the opposition Labour party have said that they would not allow an independent Scotland to use the currency, while Salmond has said Scotland would use it with or without the consent of Westminster.
Even if Salmond’s nationalist government fails to secure a Yes, it would almost certainly use a close result as leverage to demand more autonomy.
The Scottish referendum on whether to dissolve the 307-year old union will be a key moment for other would-be breakaway regions in the EU.
The Spanish province of Catalonia plans to hold its own, albeit non-binding vote, on independence in November, a move which the Spanish government says is illegal under its constitution.