Attitudes Towards the European Union and the Challenges in Communicating 'Europe': Building a Bridge Between Europe and its Citizens - Evidence Review Paper Two

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ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE EUROPEAN UNION

Scottish attitudes towards the European Union

11. It is often believed that within the UK, Scotland is one of the most pro-European areas. The evidence within this review suggests that on the whole this is not the case, with people in Scotland reporting broadly similar Eurosceptic views as people in Britain as a whole.

12. A third of the people in Scotland in 2005 would favour staying in the EU and reducing its powers. This has remained the case for the last five years (see Table 3). A further one in five people, over this period, would like things to stay as they are. Around a quarter demonstrate consistently positive attitudes to Europe, supporting increased integration or a single European government.

Table 3. Attitudes towards membership of the European Union, Scotland 1999-2005

1999

2000

2003

2004

2005

Leave the European Union

9.6

11.4

10.9

13.5

14.4

Stay in EU and reduce powers

35.9

36.6

29.4

31.1

36.3

Leave as they are

21.5

21.3

24.3

27.3

20.9

Stay in EU and increase powers

14.4

13.4

19.4

12.2

12.6

Single European government

8.5

8.9

8.0

6.7

4.9

Don't know

10.1

8.5

8.0

9.1

10.7

Sample

1482

1663

1508

1637

1549

Source: Scottish Executive Analytical Services using Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 3 1999 - 2005 'Do you think Britain's long term policy should be…'

13. This distribution of opinion has stayed steady over the last six years, although there has been a slight decline in the proportion of people who are inclined towards increasing the EU's powers.

14. A comparison of Tables 3 and 4 demonstrates that Scotland remains in line with views across Britain. Just over a third of people tend to favour reducing the EU's powers, with proportionately less, one in ten, taking the view that we should stay in Europe and increase the EU's powers.

Table 4. Attitudes towards membership of the European Union, Great Britain 1999-2005

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Leave the European Union

13.5

17.3

14.4

14.6

15.4

18.1

16.5

Stay in EU and reduce powers

42.6

38.3

37.7

35.1

31.8

38.2

35.7

Leave as they are

20.3

19.5

21.4

23.0

26.9

22.9

23.8

Stay in EU and increase powers

10.6

9.9

10.5

11.7

11.1

7.4

10.2

Single European government

6.1

6.9

6.6

7.5

6.3

5.1

4.5

Don't know

6.6

7.8

9.4

7.9

8.4

8.1

9.2

Sample

1060

2293

1099

3435

2293

3199

4268

Source: Scottish Executive Analytical Services using British Social Attitudes Survey 4 1999 - 2005 'Do you think Britain's long term policy should be…'

15. Generally, European surveys report more positive attitudes and views on Europe than either the British or Scottish Social Attitudes Survey. This may be due to the broad context where the former ask questions chiefly on Europe throughout the questionnaire and the latter ask a small number of questions on Europe amongst questions on a variety of policy areas and social issues.

16. For example, in 2004 the European Social Survey asked a question specifically on unification which found that the majority of people in Britain accept the status quo (see Table 5). It also provides evidence that one in five people in Britain support the idea of increased unification.

Table 5. Attitudes towards European Unification, United Kingdom 2004

2004

Unification has already gone to far

30.5

Unification is about right

50.5

Unification can go further

19

Sample

1783

Source: Scottish Executive Analytical Services using European Social Survey - 2002 and 2004. 'Now thinking about the European Union, some say European unification 5 should go further. Others say it has already gone too far'

17. However, when questions on the Euro and the European constitution were asked in the 2005 British Social Attitudes survey it was found that people in the UK adopted a largely Eurosceptic approach. Two-thirds (67%) of Britons would vote 'no' in a referendum on Britain joining the Euro and only a fifth (20%) would vote 'yes' to a European constitution. The question was asked before the rejection of the constitution in France and the Netherlands.

18. This was broadly reflected amongst supporters for all three main political parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat). However, at 48%, slightly less than half of Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters said they would vote no to adopting the EU constitution in contrast to 72% of Conservative supporters. Over 50% of supporters for all three parties said they would vote against joining the Euro although again Conservative supporters (79%) were most Eurosceptic (Evans & Butt 2005:199).

19. Within the Eurobarometer, associated with the most positive account of people's attitudes to the European Union, 80% of people in Scotland, the overwhelming majority, agree with the view that the 'majority of people living in the United Kingdom think British businesses, consumers and workers benefit from EU membership, although not equally'. The comparable UK average was 78%. It also found a majority of 80% in Scotland and 79% in the UK as whole agreed that 'being part of the EU means more opportunities to live, work and study in another country' (EB185-2006).

20. As discussed, differences between people in Scotland and people across Britain, such that they are, tend to be brought out by more detailed questioning on the benefits of being a member of the EU. For example, 60% of Scottish respondents agree with the statement 'the majority think working conditions in the UK are better due to EU membership', compared to the UK average of 51% (EB185-2006).

21. Additionally, 74% of Scottish respondents agree with the statement 'being part of the EU means British exporters benefit from UK membership of the European Single Market', compared to the average of 68% across the UK and finally the statement 'British consumers benefit from the UK membership of the European Single Market' elicited, this year, a 66% agreement rate in Scotland compared to the UK average 63% (EB185-2006).

22. A fuller understanding of people's attitudes can be explored through a trend analysis. This is currently not possible for Scotland alone, while the examination of British attitudes demonstrates clear fluctuations.