The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, voiced her concerns on the EU/ UK debate on 22 February, saying that there was a “real chance” of a second independence referendum if the UK were to exit the EU.
She went on to state that, “I don’t want Scotland to become independent because the UK chooses to leave the European Union.”
The First Minister said that she believes that it would not serve the interests of the UK as a whole if it were to exit and that although she is for Scottish independence, this would not be the best way to achieve it.
Her overall comment regarding EU membership is that although the EU “[Is] not a perfect institution – and while I believe it would be best for Scotland to be in the EU as an independent member state, I believe it is better for us in all circumstances to stay in.”
At St. Andrews there has been campaigns on both side of the EU/ UK debate as well as the continuing campaigning efforts by the group, St Andrews University Students for Independence (StAUSFI).
Deputy events convenor for StAUSFI, Aedan Burt, stated that they, “agree with the First Minister that there is a strong case for Scotland to become independent without the tragedy of the Brexit.
“However, if Scotland were to be dragged out of the EU in a vote opposed by the majority of Scots, then it would be difficult to see how the UK works for Scotland, even before the economic impact is considered.
“In that case, independence might cease to be simply desirable, but also become a necessity for the vast majority of people.”
The campaign continues to promote the case for an independent Scotland.
The St Andrews for Europe (SAfE) campaign, which is a cross-party group for the students and residents of St Andrews campaigning for Scotland and the UK to remain in the European Union, also commented on the First Minister’s statement.
Sean McLaughlin, coordinator of the group stated that “It is fair to say that Scotland almost certainly would become independent should the UK leave the EU,” going on to say that overall, “we need to start asking questions concerning the benefits that we are currently getting as opposed to the what if we left situation.”
Mr McLaughlin believes that the way to win this campaign is to talk about the benefits of membership.
Since its founding, the group has been working on a documentary of British students who have lived and worked abroad as well as those who who have done Erasmus.
This documentary would aim to highlight the benefits of EU membership and encourage more people to vote to stay in the EU. The group is also planning on holding information sessions outside leading up to the vote in June and help people with getting registered.
The other side of the debate, those in support of the UK leaving the EU is supported by the St Andrews branch of Students for Britain.
Regarding the comments made by Nicola Sturgeon, James Bundy, a member of the campaign, stated that he believes, “Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t want an EU referendum in the short term because if she was defeated then independence would have to come off the agenda.”
Students for Britain and Vote Leave, another anti-EU group, have started campaign days across the country as well as heavy social media campaigning, street stalls and canvassing.
Mr Bundy believes that it is, “our job to show that they are less risks to leaving the EU than staying in and if we can convince the people of Scotland then the vote share in Scotland will be very similar to the vote share in England for leaving.”