What exactly is the difference?

YouGov conducted an opinion poll in Scotland last week, which people can read in full here.

Much of it was to do with the percentage that would vote for each party, but what I want to concentrate on is the response to these two questions. The first is:

On balance, do you think Scotland should ...

• Continue to be represented in the EU by the UK Government ... 40%
• Be a member of the EU in its own right represented by the Scottish
Government ... 42%

and the second is:

In the referendum, the Scottish Government intends to ask people
whether they think the Scottish Government should negotiate a new
partnership with the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an
independent country. Do you agree or disagree that the Scottish
Government should negotiate this new partnership?

• Agree ... 37%
• Disagree ... 52%

I find this quite astounding, because I'm not quite sure what the difference is. The advantages (for both Scotland and Wales) of being members of the EU in our own right are numerous. We would each have our own EU Commissioner, our own voice and vote in the Council of Ministers, and more members of the EU Parliament than we have now (Wales would have 10/11 instead of 4, Scotland would have 12/13 instead of 7). One practical result would be that on all the matters the nations of Britain agree about, we would have more collective clout than we currently do. That can only be good.

But what I don't understand is how that percentage that want Scotland to be a member of the EU in its own right, but at the same time don't want independence, must see things. It's worth looking at the breakdown by party allegiance: a third of LibDems, a quarter of Tories and nearly a quarter of Labour voters in Scotland support the idea of Scotland being a member of the EU in its own right.

Guessing (and I'd welcome people's comments on this) I'd say they might think they want the UK to have a single voice on the world stage ... that would include things like G7 and G20 summits, being a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and sending troops on missions abroad.

But countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland aren't members of the G20. I'd gladly forego membership of the G20 if we could have the same standing in the world, not to mention standard of living, as these countries.

And even fewer than 20 countries are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The admission ticket for that club used to be possession of nuclear weapons. I wouldn't have thought it was worth the price.

And as for military might, wouldn't we as members of NATO continue to work with the armed forces of England and Scotland ... just as we would work (and be under the same overall command structure) as the armed forces of all the other NATO members?

In short, I fail to see what the big difference is. But if framing the question in terms of membership of the EU makes such a big difference in Scotland, what sort of answer would we get if we asked the same question in Wales?

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