Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Brexiters also vote in EU-friendly Scotland

  • Most opinion polls have shown two Scots wanting to remain in the EU for every one that wanted to leave (Photo: Aleksandra Eriksson)

The weather gods could swing the vote on the UK's EU membership.

It’s not raining over large parts of Scotland, the most EU friendly part of the country.

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Most opinion polls have shown two Scots wanting to remain in the EU for every one that wanted to leave. Scots want to remain in the EU even more than the Northern Irish, and definitely more than the English and Welsh.

The referendum campaign has avoided much of the turmoil that has rocked England in the last few weeks.

The issue of migration hasn’t poisoned the debate, partly because there are fewer immigrants, and less pressure on social services, partly because of a labour shortage.

Leaders of all political parties represented in Holyrood, the Scottish parliament, campaigned together for an ’In’ vote, saying that the peace and trade that comes with EU membership transcend party politics.

While leaders of all parties represented in Westminster also back EU membership, the Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has all her ministers with her. Five former first ministers back her too.

The ’In’ camp also draws on a positive image of the EU - with Brussels seen as counterbalance to the rule of London - that was built up during the almost year-long campaign that preceded Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014.

But despite the fine weather, few people trickled into the polling booths that EUobserver visited.

Ian Bain, investment manager at a climate technology company, said he voted to remain.

”An ‘out’ vote would hurt business and our possibility to travel,” he said, before rushing off to work with a bundle of dry-cleaned laundry under his arm.

But most of those that EUobserver spoke to at the polling booths said they wanted out.

Joseph was standing outside a school in Dalry, a working and middle class area in central Edinburgh, a ‘Leave’ pin attached to his jacket.

”We need to take back control,” he said. ”The European Parliament is a joke, it has as much to say as the Russian Duma,” he argued. He didn’t want to give his whole name, because he didn’t want his views to be found on Google.

An elegant couple having coffee in Cafe Camino, another polling station in Edinburgh city centre, spoke along the same lines.

”There is no democracy in the EU”, said the wife, an Australian national, who refused to give her name. ”I don’t think Jean-Claude Juncker will let you write this anyway,” she added.

As Commonwealth citizens living in the UK, they had the right to vote in the elections.

Barbara Wesolowska, a Polish national who has lived for eight years in Edinburgh, didn’t have the right, in common with all EU citizens except Irish, Cypriot and Maltese, whose countries are in the Commonwealth.

Wesolowska works for a foundation providing mental health services to the Polish diaspora and said the referendum worried her.

”Many people feel very badly because of the uncertainty of the vote,” she said. ”They don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Poles are the third largest national minority in Edinburgh after the English and Irish.

But lacking the right to vote doesn’t mean one must remain silent. Wesolowska organised a demonstration on Wednesday evening near the Scottish parliament. Twenty to thirty Poles turned up behind a banner to urge Edinburgers to stay in. Some of them duct-taped their mouths in protest.

”I wanted us to gather, because being in a group has a great therapeutic effect,” said Wesolowska. ”But the action also made some Scots realise that we don’t have a vote, that they are voting for us too.”

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