A NEW survey appears to have debunked suggestions that people in Scotland are significantly more left-wing and pro-European than those south of the Border.


Only marginally fewer people in Scotland believe Britain should leave the EU, according to the latest UK Social Attitudes Survey. It compares with 25.4 per cent in England and Wales.

However, around 40 per cent both in Scotland and England say they support staying in Europe but want to see the power of Brussels reduced.

The SNP's opponents seized on the findings saying they exposed "nationalist myths" that the two countries had significantly different political outlooks and indicated strong support for remaining in the UK.

Today's (thur) study also found that beliefs over fees for higher education are broadly in line north and south of the border, with three quarters of Scots against universal free university tuition.

Scots are marginally more comfortable with larger state, with 43.8 per cent saying tax should be increased to spend more on health, education and benefits, compared to 36.4 per cent in England. However, roughly half of voters both north and south of the border back the status quo in terms of taxation and public spending. Fewer than one in 20 of Scots believe tax should be reduced and public spending cut, compared to 6.8 per cent of the public in England and Wales.

Rachel Ormston, co-head of attitudes at social researcher ScotCen, said that while there was a clear difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK, the scale of the disparity was often exaggerated.

She said: "It's true we are a bit more left wing and a bit more pro-European, but the scale of the difference is not as big as you might expect, given the different narratives adopted by our politicians.

"Scotland is to the left of England, but in terms of a general pattern they mirror each other. They tend to drift to the left or the right in tandem."

Despite free university tuition fees being a totemic policy of the SNP, new figures show that nine per cent of Scots believe all students should be charged, up from six per cent when the party came to power. In England, 11 per cent believe all students should pay.

Meanwhile, 64 per cent of Scots believe some students should pay, compared to 67 per cent in England. Just over a quarter of people in Scotland believe no-one should pay, compared to 21 per cent south of the border.

In Scotland, upfront fees were scrapped in 2000 and all fees were subsequently abolished in 2008. In England, students face bills of up to £9,000 per year, which are usually repaid after graduates begin work.

Almost a quarter of Scots would not change Britain's current relationship with the EU, compared to 16.2 per cent in England. A move towards a single European government was backed by four per cent in Scotland and 4.2 per cent in England.

John Lamont, chief whip for the Scottish Conservatives, said: "The SNP spent the entire referendum campaign claiming how different Scotland was to England. This is yet another example which proves the SNP's claims to be rubbish."

"The statistics talk for themselves, they show that the views of the Scottish and English are actually quite similar on a number of key issues - showing support for working together within a solid United Kingdom."

When asked how they would vote if there was an in-out EU referendum based on the current arrangement, 57 per cent across Britain said they would vote stay in the UK, compared to 35 per cent who would withdraw, with the remainder undecided or declining to answer.

In was also revealed that across the UK, the current arrangement at Westminster appears to have put voters off coalition Government despite polls suggesting another hung parliament in May is likely. Less than a third UK-wide say they would now prefer a coalition, compared to 45 per cent in 2007.

SNP MSP George Adam said that Scots had voted in overwhelming numbers for his party in 2011, when it had a clear manifesto pledge never to introduce tuition fees in Scotland.

He added: "Polls regularly indicate high levels of satisfaction with the record of delivery of the SNP in government across the policy agenda." And this week's YouGov poll shows much higher levels of support in Scotland to remain part of the European Union that the rest of the UK - which reinforces the need for any EU in/out referendum to include a democratic safeguard that each of the four UK nations would have to vote to leave before the UK could quit."