Debunking SNP Myths 8: 'Brexit shows England always gets its Way'

A Force For Good activists celebrating the 200th birthday of the Union Bridge across the River Tweed on 26 July 2020.

A constant refrain from the Scottish nationalists is:

"The United Kingdom left the EU even though Scotland voted to Remain. That means we left the EU against the wishes of the Scottish people, and against our will, and that is so unfair. Why should we have to do what England wants all the time just because England is much bigger than Scotland?"

On the face of it they are not correct. There were over 1 million "Scottish people" who "wished" for Brexit and who voted for it, and who were delighted that it came to pass.

But even if we accept their exclusive definition of "the Scottish people" as being precisely only those 1,661,191 who voted to Remain, they are still wrong in their statement that Scotland voted to Remain. This is because we were not voting for Scotland to Remain or Leave. Scotland was not a member nation of the EU!

The member nation was the United Kingdom and at the EU referendum on 23 June 2016, we were voting as the United Kingdom and for the United Kingdom as one political nation-state.

It was a UK-wide vote. We were not voting as separate countries. The UK is not a Federal State. Votes were not considered to be "Scottish" or "English" or "Welsh" or "Northern Irish" votes.

The UK is a Unitary State. We were voting as one country – the United Kingdom.

Everyone's vote counted equally, regardless of where you were from in the UK (or even in Gibraltar). They were all put into the same British pot, added up and the overall winner was chosen.

But having said that, let's try to see it from their point of view. And by so doing, let's break the votes down per constituent country and show that even through their frame of viewing things it could easily have gone the other way.

That is, the United Kingdom could have remained in the EU even though England voted to Leave. England could just as easily have been – to paraphrase the words of the Scottish nationalists – "kept in the EU against its will" because of the votes of Scotland!

We will do a worked example to illustrate our point. But first, here is how the votes, per country, fell on that day:

United Kingdom Result

Leave: 17,410,742 (51.89%)

Remain: 16,141,241 (48.11%)

Total Votes: 33,551,983

Winning margin for Leave: 1,269,501

England (and Gibraltar)

Remain: 13,266,996 Leave: 15,188,406

Winning margin for Leave: 1,921,410


Remain: 772,347 Leave: 854,572

Winning margin for Leave: 82,225


Remain: 1,661,191 Leave: 1,018,322

Winning margin for Remain: 642,869

Northern Ireland

Remain: 440,707 Leave: 349,442

Winning margin for Remain: 91,265

OUR WORKED EXAMPLE demonstrating that Scotland could have kept the UK in the EU against the wishes of England!

In this example, we'll move the votes around but we won't change the overall number of votes cast in each constituent part of the UK. In each case, we'll move Leave votes to Remain.

How many should we shift?

This is just an arithmetical exercise, based on no particular social or political evidence. However, we want to use a factor which will allow us to shift a consistent proportion of votes from Leave to Remain in each constituent country.

For the sake of this example, we'll move votes from Leave to Remain in proportion to the percentage of the overall UK electorate which each constituent country represents.

In 2016, according to Wikipedia, the total Electorate in the UK (and Gibraltar) at the 2016 EU referendum was 46,524,120. (Note 1)

Of this, England (and Gibraltar) represented 39,005,781 (83.84%) (Note 2)

Scotland represented 3,987,112 (8.57%)

Wales represented 2,270,272 (4 .88%)

Northern Ireland represented 1,260,955 (2.71%)

Therefore, let's change the voting figures from Leave to Remain in line with those percentages. As we emphasise, we are applying this factor merely because it presents itself as a consistent measurement which we can use in our hypothetical example simply to illustrate our point. There is no political reason for using it and we acknowledge that there may be other factors which could be used.