Most Scots back fishing powers move after Brexit, study finds

10 January 2018, 06:35

EU Brexit

A majority of Scots want decisions about fishing and farming to be made in Scotland post-Brexit, a new survey suggests.

The report by Sir John Curtice for the National Centre for Social Research shows 62% of Scots think decisions about fishing should be made by the Scottish Government once powers have been repatriated from Brussels, with 59% believing the same for farming.

However, the survey of 859 people revealed a majority would also like to keep the same rules as the rest of the UK on reserved issues such as trade (67%) and immigration (63%).

The research found 59% of voters in Scotland back an end to freedom of movement with the EU, slightly lower than the 64% of voters across Britain as a whole.

Scots were more likely than those in the rest of the UK to prioritise free trade with the EU over control of immigration, with 63% of people in Scotland willing to accept free movement in return for free trade compared with just 53% across Britain as a whole.

The survey shows Scots have become more critical of the way that both the UK Government and the EU are handling the Brexit negotiations.

More than two-thirds (69%) of Scottish voters think the UK Government is handling things badly, up from 57% last February, while 55% think the EU is handling the talks badly, up from 44%.

Sir John, senior research fellow at ScotCen, said: "Our results suggest that both the UK and the Scottish Government may need to do some rethinking of their plans for post-Brexit Scotland.

"The UK Government's proposal that EU responsibilities for devolved areas such as fishing and farming should in the first instance at least be given to Westminster appears to be out of tune with the public mood north of the border.

"Equally, the Scottish Government appears to have made little headway in persuading voters that Scotland should have a closer relationship with the EU post-Brexit.

"Most still think the rules on EU trade and immigration should be the same in Scotland as in the rest of the UK."

Scotland's Brexit Minister, Michael Russell, said: "The Scottish Government believes that continued membership of the EU is the best option for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

"However, if the UK Government is intent on Brexit, it must minimise the damage to our society and economy. The best way to do that is by staying in the European single market.

"The fact that the number of people in Scotland who think Brexit is being badly handled by the UK Government has grown to 69% shows the extent to which people are concerned about the direction of negotiations and the likely outcome.

"However, I am pleased to see this research shows people in Scotland believe decisions on all devolved issues should continue to be made here in Scotland.

"The EU Withdrawal Bill must now be amended to ensure powers on issues such as fishing and farming come straight to Holyrood. Without that change, we cannot recommend the Scottish Parliament give consent to the Bill."