We await the next political opinion poll – hopefully tomorrow’s Guardian will have one from ICM, though until Ming Campbell is replaced by a new Liberal Democrat leader we are once again in a sort of polling interregnum with a known unknown bearing down on us.

There were a couple of polls over the weekend. Firstly a Populus poll for the BBC’s Daily Politics showed us what we already knew, that the overwhelming majority of people say they would like a referendum on the new European Treaty, in this case 73%.

67% of people also told Populus that “the issue of Europe is important in the way that I will vote at the next election”. This is somewhat misleading – if you ask people if they think an issue is important or if they care about an issue they will nearly always say yes, to be meaningful they need to pick it out as more important than other issues. In measuring the importance of Europe (or any other for that) as an issue, the best measure is that offered by Ipsos MORI’s monthly tracker of what issues people say are important to the country. Other pollsters ask this of course, but MORI’s stands along because it is regularly done, month in, month out, and more importantly it is unprompted – people aren’t given a list of issues to choose from, they say whatever they think.

In their September poll a whopping 4% of people said that Europe was one of the most important issues facing the country, compared to 43% for immigration, 41% for crime, 36% health and 22% defence and international terrorism. That isn’t to say Europe doesn’t have the potential to be a salient issue – back in 2000 and 2001 when William Hague was banging on about “Saving the Pound” Europe was regulary cited as a major issue facing the country by around 25% of people, it went as high as 43% in 1997. It’s just that, right now, very few people see it as an issue of importance when compared to things they really care about, like immigration, health and crime.

Meanwhile, an ICM poll for the Guardian found that 89% of people thought they were still judged by their class, only 8% thought it was unimportant in shaping the way they were viewed. 53% considered themselves to be working class, 41% middle class – proportions largely unchanged since the late 1990s.


107 Responses to “How many people actually care about Europe?”

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  1. “That isn’t to say Europe doesn’t have the potential to be a salient issue ”

    Much like Inheritance Tax. I doubt if more than 1 or 2% in September would have listed IHT as a salient issue, yet George Osborne’s announcement had a huge impact on Conservative fortunes.

    My guess is that it wasn’t IHT so much that boosted the Conservatives, as the signal that the Conservatives would be looking to got taxes on aspirational voters.

    If the Conservatives can link the refusal to have a referendum in with doubts about Gordon Brown’s character, then I think the saliency of this issue could rise.

  2. I think the inheritance tax has such a big effect not just because it was a popular issue itself (tax is a problem in things like this, people don’t like saying tax because it makes them look like greedy bastards. It’s one of the areas where there is a noticable difference between polling using a human interviewer and self-completed surveys), but because by setting out policies on inheritance tax, stamp duty, etc the Conservatives addressed what the polling suggested was a major weakness – that they didn’t stand for anything, had no policies and no one knew what they would actually do.

    I don’t think it was so much what the meat was (though a cut in inheritance tax was a particular popular and the method of funding it would also have resonated), merely that they were offering some meat.

  3. I’m curious as to why the Eurobarometer polls are never mentioned–is this because of their methods, or something else?

  4. One thing that this doesn’t pick up is the extent to which Europe can be a factor in other more salient issues, the most obvious one being the likes of immigration, asylum and EU open borders.

    The classic perfect storm for the Tories would be a crime committed by an immigrant who was here illegally from eastern europe after comming from France.

    I am not saying that as an attack on Tories as xenophobic or cynical but rather because it links all the issues where the public percieve them to be strong.

    Peter.

  5. Cllr. Peter Cairns,

    The golden scenario for the Conservatives would be if this treaty were passed, and then one or our unions managed to use the Charter of Fundamental Rights to have the ban on secondary picketing overturned (and the unions will be bringing test cases).

  6. Peter – Europe isn’t necessarily a good issue for the Conservatives. It’s taken as read that it is, but unlike crime and immigration, which they pretty much own, it’s not an area where they invariably lead Labour.

    Nicholas – there is no good reason, they are perfectly sound polls. They are just outside the sort of media polling machine so I tend to forget they exist. I shall try harder to remember.

  7. The expressions of relative importance on “Europe” are very odd.
    There appears to be a complete disconnect between the very high numbers of people who want a Referendum on The Treaty/ Consitution, and the vanishingly small number for whom “Europe” is an important issue in the IPSOS tracker.
    Presumably the former are expressing a desire for the government to keep it’s word-the actual topic could be almost anything. It seems that this is the vein which the Conservatives are trying to mine in their desire for a Referendum.

    …and yet the details of this Treaty are so impenetrable to the non-legal mind I can hardly imagine how a comprehensible Referendum which actually addressed the issues could be framed.

    For me the issue of “Europe” is extremely frustrating. I know that trade agreements make sense. I know that there are pan-European issues which which can benefit from a combined approach-like Environmental protections, or Energy policy say.
    But I also observe that attempts to muster unanimity on Fisheries, Agriculture, Foreign Policy , and Military matters have been a fiasco of self interest….and yet I see an ever larger beauracracy being formed, reporting to an unelected executive, all of whom seem hell bent on greater political integration.

    How do I get to vote on these aspects?
    How can I express reservations about Federalism, lack of Democracy , and the dead weight cost of it all without being called “anti-european”?
    When was I asked to express a view on the change from a European Economic Community-to a European Union?

    I can’t and I wasn’t
    I have to take it all or not at all it seems.

    The questions on “Europe” being asked of the British public -both by our politicians, and our Pollsters are, in my view far too simplistic. They cannot be answered sensibly. Perhaps that’s why only 4% of us think it’s important. Perhaps that’s the way our politicians like it?

    Now if we were asked questions like-“Which of these aspects of our life do you think should be decided by the Westminster Parliament , and which by the European Commission-Defence, Home Security,Foreign Policy,Human Rights, Working Hours……etc etc etc”-we might get some interesting answers-and actually have an informed debate on “Europe”

  8. Colin,

    If you are worried about an ever increasing beauracracy and an unelected execuitive, try looking hard at our own country.

    The number of civil servants has been rising for years and when have we ever elected a mandarin let alone a police chief, come to think of it when did we last have an elected head of state… Cromwell.

    I am not sure of the actual numbers but I think of you compare the number of EU empolyees per EU citizean it beats any member states Civil Servant to public ratio hands down.

    You could argue that we could administer all the things the EU does with fewer people, but the biggest waste is the moving EU parliament and all attempts to change that have been frustrated by elected MEP’s including the ones from this country.

    The “unelected” commission cannot initiate or pass legislation. That can only be done by the Council of Ministers all of whom are elected in their own countries.

    It’s a bit like blaming the civil service for all those terrible policies they impliment for no better reason than they were in the manifesto of the party that one a general election.

    For all the talk of unelected, this our that, the real power lies with the politicians and they tell the commission to do. If you don’t like it take it up with Gordon Brown, your MP or MEP, they have the power to change it.

    I really don’t have a lot of time for the “It’s Europes fault” line, when they are implimenting policies that we have agreed to.

    As to self interest, well it’s a bit hard to complain about it when no matter where they are in Europe if a politician starts flying the flag and saying they’re going to “Fight our Corner” their poll ratings go up.

    There is a lot wrong with the EU, particularly where it tries to micromanage and industry like the CAP or CFP rather than just regulate the market as with competition.

    We should learn from that and look to it as an arbriter more than a provider, but that’s the job of the politicians to reform the institutions and mechanisms, you can’t blame the public officals for following the current policy.

    Peter.

  9. Peter-thanks. It’s always illuminating to hear a different slant on things.

    I repeat that my main concern-fear even-is a Federal Europe. It seems to me that Giscard & his ilk have always intended it to be so. They just didn’t tell us until The Constitution made a few people sit up & smell the coffee.
    I repeat-when were the citizens of Europe consulted about which “competencies” ( great word that-so EU!) their own Governments would surrender to Brussels?

    Europe is not a country, but it is being governed as though it is.I don’t complain about self interest. That wasn’t my point at all-simply that across such a huge group of disparate Nation States self-interest and some disagreement is inevitable.THerefore the welter of legislation aimed at forcing these multi-faceted tensions into a straight jacket of conformity is bound to be a veneer-and yes a very very expensive one .

    I agree that we need less top-down government in UK too-I absolutely agree with ideas like elected police chiefs.

    As to “reform”-yes indeed….where have I heard that one before?

    I am not at all sure that the balance of power in EU lies as you describe it-well not in practice anyway.And what of the powers wielded by The European Court? But-I’m not a constitutional lawyer -just an ordinary citizen-so what chance do I stand?
    I wonder how many UK voters even know who their MSP is-let alone what they do.

    I feel that there is a massive gulf between the administrators of the supra-national quasi-state called The European Union, and it’s citizens.

    ..perhaps there has been an opinion poll on the subject?

  10. Anthony Wells,

    I think you are wrong in your assessment. If a pro-European were to try and claim this I would say they were being disingenuous.

    Comparing the EU and lets say Immigration as you do is not a ‘like for like’ comparison.

    One is a ‘strategic issue’ and the other is an ‘operational issue’. It is always the case that operational issues will take precedent in people’s minds because they experience them on a day to day basis.

    It’s like comparing a symptom of a disease with the disease itself.

    If I can give another example if someone cannot access this web-site they are likely to say ‘There is something wrong with my PC’ not ‘There is something wrong with my USP’ or with ‘UK Polling Reports server’. The reality is it could be any one of the three.

    Similarly, when people refer to immigration many probably do not realise that one of the main obstacles to fully controlled immigration is the EU (and therefore by inference in stating immigration is their key issue they are actually also saying that the EU is also).

    Consequently, I suggest the opinions on the EU are judged purely on polls specifically related to the EU rather than trying to compare them falsely with stock issue polls of day on day issues.

  11. I found a Poll on attitudes to Europe in UK :-

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/01/23145439/5

    I would have been in the majority in Tables 3 & 4-which is comforting.
    Its interesting to note that from Table 5 ,81% thought Unification was either “about right” or had already “gone too far”…mind you that was three years ago!

  12. I note in to-day’s Times that William Rees-Mogg is suggesting that Alex Salmand should hold a referendum in Scotland on the EU Treaty. He is scathing of the Brown decision to let parliament approve/disapprove the Treaty rather than the people. If the Scots were to reject the Treaty in a referendum, Brown could be in a difficult situation. Perhaps Peter Cairns could enlighten us on such a dilemma?

    There are problems for the Conservatives also on the issue of a referendum. In last week’s PMQs the PM read out a savagely critical diatribe on the notion of a referendum by one high profile ex-Cabinet Minister – Kenneth Clarke. There are other keen Europeans in the Conservative Party, notably Michael Heseltine and Ian Taylor. There are Labour MPs demanding a referendum – Austin Mitchel and Kate Hooey amongst them. A protracted debate on this issue will show fissures on both sides of the party divide.

  13. I think most of the prominent pro-europeans in the Tory party are considered to be rather over-the-hill now. I think saying that Kenneth Clarke disagrees with the party line on Europe was similar to saying that Diane Abbot disagrees with the war in Iraq- e.e it’s been said so much it has little impact.

  14. Is there a particular reason why there should be absolute unanimity of view within parties on this issue?

    I think Cameron has made a mistake in committing to a referendum if the Treaty is ratified & Conservatives regain power.Labour will say this is tantamount to pulling out of Europe.
    This is yet another example of the dreadful “take it all” or “get out “attitude we are presented with.
    Cameron should be taking newspaper ads. explaining in detail how The Treaty passes more powers to EU & what it’s effects will be. This should be followed up by forensic questioning in the debate which Brown ( in fairness to him) has committed to.We could then see who wins the argument.

  15. John H,

    I haven’t heard anything about it, but that doesn’t mean much as I am just back from Canada.

    The Scottish parliament can I believe hold consultative referendum on issues, but they are only “for information”. As the SNP is pro the EU and fairly relaxed on much of the treaty I am not sure if we would.

    Havig said that it would set a nice precident for an Independence referendum, and as Tories are in favour of one, their MSP’s could hardly object without appearing to be hypocrits.

    That leaves the LibDems who would be in the position of being traditionally pro referendum voting against one.

    So far both leadership candidate have attacked the tories saying they really want to pull us out of europe, but I think that’s more about the leadership contest and appealing to the majority of pro europe LibDem members who fear a kicking from the Tories than a considered position.

    The SNP has long camapaigned against the CFP ( Well with restrictions on our fisherman when we have nearly half of the EU’s fish, it’s hardly surprising), so that could be an issue depending on what the treaty says about it.

    I know the SNP thought the original constitution proposals were close to a reason for rejecting it.

    Given that Alex has written to all signatories to the NPT for observer status for at the next round of international disarmament talks we do seem to be spreading our wings a bit.

    I don’t know how much coverage it got in England but David Cairns the Scotland Office Minister accused us of joining up with the likes of iran, on the basis that they were one of the 144 countries we contacted about it.

    That was compounded by a Scotland Office spokesperson saying that Salmond was trying to make common cause with the likes of “Iran and South Korea”…. Yes “South”. I am sure he meant North but it raised a laugh….

    In the long term this isn’t just about annoying Brown or grand standing, but actually has a deeper purpose.

    At every election one of the anti independence arguments is that we would lose our seat at the top table and that we would have no influence.

    Being seen on the News at the UN stating our case would undermine that argument, and besides opposing Trident is popular in Scotland so it puts the Labour party in the position of saying

    ” The SNP is wrong to try to get rid of weapons Scots don’t want”.

    So far the tactic has been avoid that trap ( they’re not completely stupid…) and to argue that the SNP is wasting time on things it has no power over and should concentrate on what matters at home within the remit of the parliament.

    But again until we get a decent poll that asks whta people think of these ideas and whetehr we should be doing it, we really won’t know who’s tactics are best.

    Peter.

  16. Colin,
    There is no reason why there should unanimity in a political party; indeed it seems healthy to have reasoned debates and disagreements. All political parties are in effect coalitions. We electors, if we think carefully how we should vote, will favour the party which most closely believes in the principles and policies which we hold dear. It is unlikely that we would agree wholeheartedly to every policy and idea of one party or another. As in most aspects of life, we compromise.
    However,apparently disunited parties do less well in polls than those who appear to be united – hence the grammar school issue for David Cameron and Iraq for Tony Blair.

  17. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/23/2066840.htm

    for the Australian most recent poll with election end of November (Labor policies includes withdrawing from Iraq and a republic). 16% lead on 2 party preferred for Labor…

  18. John –

    “Similarly, when people refer to immigration many probably do not realise that one of the main obstacles to fully controlled immigration is the EU”

    Bingo! It doesn’t matter if the thing they are concerned about is actually caused by Europe unless they realise that it is. If all the problems people were worred about were caused by Europe, it still wouldn’t make it a salient issue unless people actually connected that issue with Europe in their minds.

    Under normal circumstances people do indeed care far more about issues that affect their normal everyday lives. They only care about ‘operational’ issues when they impact upon it. To some degree immigration is the same – people use their local health services, the local police stops crime down their road, schools educate their children, but immigration doesn’t affect them directly. It has become salient because people think rightly or wrongly that it affects their lives through the knock on effect in crime, housing, employment, pressure on public services, etc, etc. Europe isn’t an issue at the moment because most people rightly or wrongly don’t see how an extra EU treaty will effect their lives.

    In measuring public opinion it doesn’t matter if people are right or wrong, whether they correctly apportion blame or identify causes. It measures what people actually think, not what they should think.

  19. John H

    My sentiments entirely

  20. Anthony,

    By and large people don’t like extra government, whether it be the issue of cost or the supposed intrusion.

    In this respect because the EU is largely percieved as an addition layer of government over and above what we have, it will always struggle to win public support.

    As they say ” What’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right”. Polls measure whats popular and like it our not a majority of swing voters who have no ideological allegience to a party will vote for whats popular.

    That’s why focused polls matter and have so much influence of Party strategy and policy.

    Peter,

  21. Sean Fear: “Cllr. Peter Cairns,

    The golden scenario for the Conservatives would be if this treaty were passed, and then one or our unions managed to use the Charter of Fundamental Rights to have the ban on secondary picketing overturned (and the unions will be bringing test cases).”

    No, that is a nightmare worst case scenario, not a golden scenario.

  22. The above scenario could be used as leverage by the Conservatives to get us out of Europe, or renegotiate this treaty (it may be too late to do so if/when they get back into power). Then again I’m not convinced we’d instantly head back into the 1970’s if secondary picketing was allowed.

    Thinking about the poll above, 4% seems quite small considering the noise David Cameron is making about the referendum issue, and also considering the trouble the whole issue has caused his party in the past, I’m not sure he’ll get a no-referendum boost in the polls. Perhaps he’d better stick to tax cuts.

  23. “At every election one of the anti independence arguments is that we would lose our seat at the top table and that we would have no influence. Being seen on the News at the UN stating our case would undermine that argument…”

    I don’t think so. Being seen at a disarmament conference is not comparable to having a seat on the Security Council with the veto. I don’t think anyone believes that Scotland would have its own seat on that.

  24. Colin

    My understanding is that Cameron has NOT pledged to hold a referendum in the event that he comes to power after the treaty is ratified. Hague was pressed on this very point this weekend and refused to commit to it. The Telegraph were swift to spot this and were fairly critical (for them) in their editorial yesterday.

    Cameron is playing a dangerous game in the long term here. By playing along with the Euro sceptics he gives the clear impression that he believes that the British public should have a say and yet the last thing he will want to do should he become PM is to hold a referendum on the already ratified treaty because he knows that such a referendum could render our European membership dead in the water. That is not scaremongering, just a simple reality that it will not be possible retrospectively to pick and choose carve outs with 26 other countries. They will simply say that we can take what is already agreed or leave. Cameron knows this.

    Indeed if the British public are to have a say on this treaty, on what basis of principle would Cameron deny the people a say on the consitutional parts of the Maastricht Treaty and the Single European Act which Thatcher and Major respectively denied us a vote on?

    I don’t for a minute believe that Cameron is a Euro sceptic and that is why anyone genuinely hoping for a referendum on this treaty is living in cloud cuckoo land if they think they will get one from the Tories once it has been ratified. At best Cameron may adopt the LibDem approach of offering a referendum on the whole deal and he would campaign for a Yes vote. I think that unlikely however as it would split the party from top to bottom.

    This is politics of the same hue that Labour employed in the 1990s when they sided with the Euro rebels to defeat the government over the Maastricht bill. There’s nothing wrong with that (indeed I think Cameron is doing his job properly by doing so) but some of the moral preaching we hear at present is simply laughable.

    link

  25. Over the next months and years we’ll be reading examples of where the “red lines” are being eroded, or alternatively, of where they are proving resilient. Cameron will hope that heinous crimes or injustices are seen through his EU prism, and his argument for a partial disengagement would gain credence. (e.g. “The EU prevents us from deporting X criminal, whose family are on UK benefits”), Anything less newsworthy won’t have much effect on people’s opinion. In any event, this Treaty is the wrong thing to be arguing over. I don’t want a polarising “In or Out” debate, but a full, fact driven appreciation of the pluses and minuses of the EU.

    Personally, I’d love to know how the EU impacts on my everyday life; I suspect it has a lot less influence than my own actions, and somewhat less influence than the tax & spending decisions of the Government (& council). For that reason, it doesn’t surprise me when people put NHS, Crime Education, Economy, etc. ahead in importance

  26. Arnie
    I think Cameron is concentrating more on the “you broke your manifesto pledge” line than on the treaty itself, although he certainly gives the impression that a future Tory Government would at least detach us from the Human Rights Act.

    Any lasting damage that line does to Labour in the polls will be affected by the occasions when the EU makes the news – every time it does, Cameron will mention the “broken promise” before he mentions whatever the issue is.

  27. Arnie-
    I watched Cameron’s Press Conference this morning. He refused to even discuss what the position might be if Brown ratifies & subsequently loses an election to Cameron.
    He said-correctly in my view-that he is concentrating on getting a referendum before the event rather than after.

    Your phrase-“By playing along with the Euro sceptics he gives the clear impression that he believes that the British public should have a say” is I am afraid so typical of the school of opinion which classifies anyone with any doubts at all about the direction the EU is headed, as beyon the pale in some way.
    First of all a majority in UK expresses the wish to have a referendum on this Treaty. Whatever you or I may think about that, it cannot be dismissed, and Cameron is right to acknowledge it.

    SEcondly it is possible to “pick & choose carve outs with 26 other countries”-Brown has done just that. INdeed his whole defense of THe TReaty appears to rest on his Red Lines protecting “British Interests”, rather than a recommendation of The Treaty per se.

    Yes I agree with you that Cameron is playing a “dangerous game”-but for a different reason.

    I believe that Cameron is using the Referendum demand as a tool to expose what he sees as a ( unpopular) failure to keep their word on Labour’s part.But I am concerned that this agenda-valid in it’s own right-will overide a duty to pursue a real and genuine concern by voters that The Treaty does represent further transfer of powers. I would want him to start demonstrating that in detail.
    THere are many people, I believe, in this country who recognise the benefits of trade ties with the rest of Europe, and the benefits of a common approach to certain policy areas-but who are not in favour of the present impetus to more and more political. social, and legal integration.It is this subject which should be aired-and the Treaty Referendum debate could facilitate it .
    I hope so-but am not sanguine about it. Glib use of words like “Eurosceptic” and “Europhile” do not aid rational debate on the subject.

  28. Fascinating. I am no fan of Nick Robinson but it appears that this criticism of Cameron’s stance is starting to gather pace. If nothing else it underlines what I was trying to explain about the dangers of Cameron appearing to promise something that in fact he is not. If he does not state his position clearly and quickly, this could backfire on him particularly as he has made “trust” and “treating people like fools” his mantra.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/

  29. Anthony – Thanks for responding and I don’t disagree with what you say. However it really doesn’t address the point I raised.

    In your original post you dismiss completely the relevance of the specifc strategic poll on the EU. In doing so you assume that –

    People are unable to associate the two partly related issues.

    and secondly that just because people focus on operational issues they do not also take into consideration strategic issues.

    I do not believe either assumption is correct.

    I agree issues such as the EU Referendum and the West Lothian Question will never win an election on their own (does any, other than tax cuts?) but will still have an impact on the way they vote and may effect the votes of sufficient people to decide a Government.

    Furthermore, as you point out 67% of people say that the EU is sufficiently important to affect the way they vote but you go one to effectively rubbish their stated view and then justify it by making a statement which in reality rubbishes all polls on issues.

    If anything I would question the validity of the ICM poll which I believe requires the sample to choose which single policy area is the most important. To me this is a totally unrealistic way of assessing this.

    Personally, I want to see all areas of government addressed with the approriate urgency and not just those that are ‘the most important’ in the polls. If I was asked the ICM question it would be hard for me to give an accurate answer and I would probably answer differently each month but my top 10 issues (that will define how I vote) would rarely change and the EU and WLQ would always feature.

    The problem really is that those purchasing the polls are looking for a simplistic sound byte answer and in doing so they are distorting the public’s views.

    Now if the question was changed to say ‘What issues are important to you?’ with people allowed to choose whichever issues they feel are important and the EU did not figure significantly in that poll then I would accept your assessment. However, I believe it would feature significantly.

    As it stands I still think your assessment is wrong. Both polls are valid and should be taken at face value and as the Populus polls is on a specific single issue it is more informative than the generic ICM tracker.

    Unfortunately, there is insufficient detail on other issues to undertake a realistic comparison with the Populus poll. Unless you can point me toward some?

  30. As a follow up why did you even bother to mention the ICM poll on class because extending your argument about prompting against the Populus poll surely the same applies to this and possibly even more so?

    I do not recall the last time I was in the company of people who discussed class. It was a very long time ago!

  31. John – If anything I would question the validity of the ICM poll which I believe requires the sample to choose which single policy area is the most important

    No, it asked people what they thought was the most important issue and then also asked them what other issues they also thought were important. The data in the table is the combination of all those answers, treating them all as equally important (so if someone said health was their number one issue, but they also cared about crime, agriculture and europe it would count as 1 vote for health, 1 vote for agriculture, etc, etc)”

    Now if the question was changed to say ‘What issues are important to you?’ with people allowed to choose whichever issues they feel are important and the EU did not figure significantly in that poll then I would accept your assessment. However, I believe it would feature significantly.

    That pretty much what it did do. People could name whatever issues they liked, and were able to give a list of several different issues.

  32. The debate in Parliament about the Treaty, I hope, will be about its contents, and not restricted to the point-scoring “We have our Red Lines versus You Broke Your Promise” lines.

    Making polling more indicative of what makes people’s minds tick must be a fiendish task – I wonder if efforts are made to move in that direction (eg What specifically would sway you on the EU?) would lead to more analytical problems or fewer?

  33. Nicholas,

    “It’s not how big it is it’s waht you do with it”.

    If Alex or Scotland are seen to stand up at the UN and push for disarmament and oppose Trident, then it will go down extremely well in Scotland. If he is attacked for doing something people think is right then that is a dangerous tactic for unionists to try.

    Conversely if the UK is seen to be blocking progress or worse still despite Browns attempts to put distance between himself from Bush looks like we are just Americas second vote then again it could play well for the SNP.

    No one is saying that being an observer at the NPT talks is on a par with a seat and the security table.

    However, if for example, Alex says that we need to tackle the issue of Israeli nuclear weapons if we are to have stability in the middle east, and Britain continues with the pretence that we have no evidence of Israeli nuclear weapons and as they haven’t signed the NPT they shouldn’t be discussed then who will look the better.

    Some people already ask what’s the point of being on the security council if all you do is back the US and maintain the status quo, when what the public want is change.

    Eric Joyce MP was on Newsnight Scotland last night for Labour raging about this and again talking about comforting the likes of Iran but it’s fairly obvious that as the UK develops it’s position and the talks come about through our diplomats the UK will be talking to the likes of Iran as well.

    Publically the anger is directed at the SNP Government for doing something that it shouldn’t be doing and that the UK wouldn’t, when in reality what is making Labour in Westminster annoyed is that the SNP is actually doing exactly what the UK government does.

    But again until the issue progresses and gets a big enough profile for the media in Scotland to do a decent poll as opposed to a Daily Record style,

    ” Should Alex Salmond be wasting your taxes going on a junket to New York rather than helping poor starving grannies in Glasgow”

    we won’t know if the SNP have pushed the right buttons or not.

    Personally and pretty obviously as a nationalist, I think we should be at the UN stating our position and trying to get our way if possible, but the issue here is will it play well for the SNP in the polls, and that I just don’t know.

    Peter.

  34. PC SNP

    What gives you the idea the your PM is not under the same control by the same people as the British PM?

    If Scotland gets independence it is because the big money wants them to have it. Or REAL independence simply will not be allowed to happen.

    Scotland is about as close to a Marxist communist corporate capitalist state as it is possible to become in the western world. Thats why you lot are as unhealthy, laking in confidence and independent wealth, as you are. These power crazy Marxist bankers have spent the last 50 years destroying the Scottish people for a reason. It seems you are that reason.

    The people of Scotland should think hard before they abandon their friends in the English people. A nation divided is a nation ripe for a takeover. A small nation like Scotland dependent on oil and state subsidy is a slave nation in all but name. Why would you want to make this situation infinitely worse?

  35. My wife’s Scottish, healthy extraordinarily confident (so are her friends!) and came with a substantial dowry thanks very much!

    I’m not sure how her family voted last May, but like many Scots are waiting to see that the SNP cools its “independence” ardour, and secures a reputation for economic competence before the next election.

    Any SNP private polling suggesting growing support for an Independence referendum?

    Good to see Alex flying the flag and getting out and about.

  36. “Any SNP private polling suggesting growing support for an Independence referendum?”

    A poll in England would be interesting too.
    The question might be something along these lines:-

    Are you content to see the Scottish administration playing at being independent with the proceeds of your taxes-or would you prefer them to be really independent and rely on their own taxes?

  37. The question might be something like that if you wanted a biased leading question.

    Otherwise it could be something like “Would you approve or disapprove of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom and becoming an independent country?”

    Anyway, there was a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times that asked the whole country, rather than just the Scots, about Scottish Independence.

    http://www.yougov.com/archives/pdf/STI070101004_1.pdf

  38. Does that mean Colin’s application to become a member of the Market Research Society hasn’t gone through on the nod yet?

    I think the “self-determination” precedents render that poll less significant than a poll of Scots would be, but I can’t wait to see how the answers differ once they’ve had a period in office – on both sides of the “wall”.

  39. Anthony,

    The message from the full figures is a clear North/South divide, or more specifically a Scotland/London divide.

    On the actual question itself there aren’t that many differences although the highest level of support for independence is actually in London not Scotland.

    The big difference is that people in England think Scotland is subsidiesed and people in Scotland don’t and consequently English people think the current settlement is unfair and Scots don’t.

    Now I’d have to say that to be honest that’s probably mostly parochialism, we don’t want to see our spending cut, and people in England want it spent their…… hardly surprising.

    However a smaller part of it is amost crtainly that Scotland being to the left of most of the UK the principle that “You put in what you can afford and get out what you need” is stronger up here.

    From a Scottish perspective with a third of the UK land mass but only a twelth of the population services up here are harder and more expensive to deliver so we need more money.

    I am not saying it’s that simple or that it’s even true, but I do think it’s how it’s percieved.

    Politically what is hard to judge is the political effect of any cut, which in a way brings us back to salience. like the EU the constitutional issue is low on the radar throughout the UK.

    Any substantial cut to Scottish spending would I am pretty sure shoot independence up the political scale in Scotland and do the SNP poll ratinmg a huge amount of good.

    What Iam less sure of is that if you gave potential voters in South east marginals a list of things David cameron could do and asked would it make you vote Tory that cutting spending to Scotland would get anything like the support of limiting immigration or more bobbies on the beat.

    As with europe asked in isolation it gets a strong response, but that doesn’t make it a priority by a long way.

    Peter.

  40. ” “You put in what you can afford and get out what you need” is stronger up here. ”

    I don’t think that’s necessarily true, Peter, certainly not in my politically mixed circle/nationally mixed marriage! “One-Nation Tories” wouldn’t disagree with that motto, and even some whackadoos’ (no offence!)advocation of charitable donation as an alternative to state-collected taxes is driven by an atruistic idea.

    Perception and prejudice (not yours!!)rear their twin heads, and the facts are left out. Do you know the figures re the North Sea resources (energy and fish!) obtained for the benefit of the UK, as compared with the “formula subsidy” to Scotland (from the Exchequer and from EU)? I don’t, and I suspect the answers would lower the temperature when it came to discussions of unfairness and “ungratefulness”.

  41. I think when Brown has to rely on his Scottish MPs to force through an English only bill is the time when the debate will be rekindled in England. Certainly, while the English (as a rule) quite like Scottish people and Socttish culture, they also percieve them to consume more per head in taxes than the English, and put less back.

    Inmy opinion the current settlement with Scotland is simply not sustainable, politically or economically, and I expect there will be some more final resolution in the next 10 years, especially if a Consevrtaive Government (without many Scotish MPs) removes their voting rights on English issues and evens up government spending between the avaergae Scot and Englishmen. I support independence, I think it would be better for England and (in the long run) Scotland too.

  42. John T,

    To be honest I’ve never been one for the on going debate about who subsidies who. It’s like the debate over Tory tax cuts and efficencies v disasterous cuts to public services.

    By the time you cut out the spin and compare the two the difference between Labour and Tory plans is probably less than the annual margin of error.

    For me Independence has always been more like leaving home, buying your first house, getting married or having kids. They are all big steps you shouldn’t do likely, they all require change and usually some financial sacrifice and risk.

    However, by and large when we look back at these things, be it not living with your parents when your forty or paying more in rent for a house you don’t own than you would in a mortgage, it turns out to have been more than worth the sacrific and hard work.

    The problem is the “in ten years time you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner” arguement hardly features and rarely works in elections.

    We like most democracies tend to fight camapaigns on the immediate rather than the long term so we tend to make short term policy a priority, rather that long term strategy.

    Peter.

  43. Peter, I’m sure that’s not the approved SNP spin!

    Independence is a medium-term SNP project, and short-term policies, such as free prescriptions, surely have half an eye on that project, along with trying to establish the SNP, rather like New Labour, as the natural choice for stable economic policy.

    Nothing wrong with that, but when it comes to a referendum debate, both sides will be relying on their spin on factual detail. Wouldn’t it be better to get that detail “off the bus stand” now, before the half-truths get halfway across the world?

  44. John T,

    If you can show how you are abetter man than me.

    The “who subsidies who” debate has been a feature of politics is Scotland since the seventies, so I don’t hold out much hope a of a clear answer after thirty years or wrangling.

    We could ask the EU to do it, as a neutral third party, but that would have southern Tories foaming at the mouth……

    Peter.

  45. I shan’t be joining you any time soon – my wife would never let me live it down!

    Preparing for membership of the EU (presumably that’s part of the deal?) would reveal all kinds of facts and figures to do with the CAP, CFP, etc. and EU inward investment/grants, so there’s a start.

    I don’t like foam from either side, and I’d hate to think Alezx would get into tongue-sticking, point-scoring short-termism.

    We don’t hear enough what Scottish voters think – doesn’t The Scotsman ever commission polls?

  46. Thank you Anthony for the Poll results-and advice on how to structure a Referendum question !!
    Mine was loaded -of course-in which respect I found the answers to the West Lothian question in your Poll interesting, particularly given they were from both sides of the border.

    I take the points made by others about the true state of the net financial support to Scotland. But precise numbers apart, perhaps the WLQ answer reflects a feeling that either we are one country-or we are two-and that this hybrid which exists now simply allows Scotland to spend “UK” taxes in a way which unfairly discriminates against non-scots-eg in healthcare.

    It is a difficult one-and I don’t pretend to have an answer…but I do think that if the Scots really want to structure their public services differently from the rest of the UK, and indeed wish to strut the World stage as a seperate entity, they should hurry up & go Independent, before the English start to get seriously disenchanted.

  47. Re: Europe. I must have pounded on 20,000 doors at the very least over the past 20 years and it’s NEVER been mentioned. Outside of political circles, whether for or against, it’s an issue many seem largely indifferent towards. Hence thousands are petititioning for a referendum not millions.

  48. The majority of people, if asked, would say that other issues such as health and education are more important than Europe.

    But Europe affects ordinary people concerning many issues about which they care very much indeed, and on which Westminster politicians are seen as failing to deliver. The appallingly low reputation of our politicians will continue for as long as they pretend to be responsible for matters on which they have given away power to Europe. The proposed new European constitution, sorry treaty, will make matters even worse.

  49. John T,

    well with a third of the Uk and only 5 million people I am sure we can find you a space somewhere. Certainly here on the Black Isle we have a quality of life second to none in the UK.

    The EU does count Scotland as a region of the Uk so it does have seperate statistics and as part of the mastricht(?) agreement the UK submits to the commission annual accounts that use the EU accounting system with no PSBR.

    On that basis they are probably quite well placed to give an independant view, although they seem loathed to do so for fear of getting drawn in to the internal politics of a member state.

    Even if it did give us an independant perspective I doubt it would help much as to be honest I don’t know an independant report in years that politicains of all parties haven’t rolled up and clubed each other with.

    you only look at how the report on the Scottish elections went down yesterday. the fact that everyone was criticised didn’t stop the name calling and buck passing.

    Having said that the SNP have taken the position that in any Independence negotiations the EU offically play the part of arbriter ( although i don’t think we used the term Binding…..)

    Peter.

  50. Is that “black” as in the black arts?

    Thanks for the insight re EU!

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