Scots to blame the English if Britain votes to leave EU

Scottish by inclination but Italian by birth, Claudio Massimo is on the side of those wanting to leave the EU.

"We're not the master in our own house," the Edinburgh souvenir seller complained to dpa. "We have to obey the EU diktat. They tell us what to do."

Massimo is not qualified to vote in Britain's in-out referendum on June 23 on whether to remain a member of the European Union.

His voice is certain to be drowned out by the pro-EU majority in the 4 million Scots registered to vote.

Sam Singh, another shopkeeper in the Scottish capital's Golden Mile tourist strip, is more in tune with the prevailing mood in this northerly nation of the United Kingdom.

"It's guaranteed that Scots will vote to stay in," Edinburgh-born Singh said. "All my friends, all my business associates, we all want to stay in."

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish government, has gone further, demanding that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must each deliver a majority vote in the referendum to make withdrawal legal. Prime Minister David Cameron's government has rejected her demand.

"The voters here are in favour of staying in but are outnumbered by opinion in England," said Mark Diffley of market research firm Ipsos MORI. "If the UK is dragged out of the EU it'll be against the will of the voters here."

In a recent Ipsos MORI opinion poll, 54 per cent of Scots said they would vote for independence if the UK opted to leave the EU. But Diffley, along with most analysts, doubts whether Scots will have an early second chance to break away.

When it was put to them in 2014, 55 per cent of Scots rejected the case for separation. The independence referendum was billed as a "once-in-a-generation" chance to be free from London's control, and Scots are likely to have to wait a long time before another vote.

It seems certain that Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP) will maintain a big majority in the Edinburgh parliament after regional elections on May 5 and that Scots will reject any move to leave the EU on June 23.

Sturgeon has said another independence vote will only come when the separatists are sure of winning the day.

"The reality is that there has not been a consistent and strong enough change in attitudes to the constitutional issue for the party to be confident of winning a second referendum in the near future," Diffley said.

The fall in the oil price - to around 40 dollars a barrel from more than 100 dollars at the time of the 2014 independence referendum - has destroyed the economic case for separation. Scotland's petroleum revenues were down by 50 per cent last year.

Last year, Scotland generated less tax per head than the rest of the United Kingdom for the first time in 35 years, the independent National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said.

The institute declared that the "Scottish fiscal situation is both generationally unequal and fiscally unsustainable."

What helped scupper the case for separation two years ago was a simple question: Which currency would an independent Scotland adopt?

The separatists, after at first picking the euro, then said they would stick with the pound.

Savvas Savouri, chief economist with London-based fund manager Toscafund, has analysed the complexities of Britain leaving the EU and Scotland applying to join the bloc after securing its own independence. He says it is unlikely that Scotland could keep the pound.

"Can you imagine Ireland being confronted with the prospect of Scotland rejoining or staying in the EU with a pound that has fallen sharply, and being faced with the prospect that Glasgow and Edinburgh would be more competitive as a business location than Dublin?" he says.

"Dublin would say that they would have to join the euro or adopt another currency that didn't have the credibility of the pound or the euro."

For Massimo, who sees Edinburgh as his permanent home, Scotland sticking with the EU, or trying to rejoin it, would be just as silly as saying goodbye to the United Kingdom.

"In Italy, with the euro, the economy went down and the taxes went up," he said. "We had to go to the bank to borrow money to pay taxes. You must be master in your own house."

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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