6.3 The UK and EU
The question of whether the UK should be a member of the EU has always polarised public opinion. In 1975, the Labour Government of Harold Wilson held a referendum asking people to vote on the UK’s continued membership of the EEC, 67% of voters voted ‘yes’ to remaining in the EEC. On 23 June 2016, David Cameron’s Conservative Government held a referendum also asking people to vote on the UK’s continued membership of the EU: 48% of the UK population voted to remain and 52% to leave. In that referendum the voters of Scotland voted 38% to leave and 62% to remain.
Following the referendum the UK Government triggered Article 50 and the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. Negotiations began in the summer of 2017 and are ongoing. The UK Government is leading negotiations and the position of the devolved administrations, including that of the Scottish Government, is complex. EU laws cover devolved matters over which the devolved jurisdictions have law making powers (and under the terms of the devolution settlements, exclusive jurisdiction). The UK Government is however determined to be the participant in leading negotiations with the EU and it remains unclear, following exit from the EU, what new powers (if any) will be exercised by the devolved legislatures (including the Scottish Parliament) and what role the devolved administrations will play.