The view from Scotland: Meet the minority who voted for Brexit

Glasgow, Scotland – The UK’s decision to quit the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum may have gone against the grain in Scotland, but it left one-million Scots on the winning side.

While Scotland voted by 62 to 38 percent to remain in the EU in the UK-wide ballot – Northern Ireland also voted against Brexit – the leave majorities in England and Wales propelled Britain towards the bloc’s exit door.

Al Jazeera interviewed seven Scots who backed Brexit. They spoke of their own reasons for initially supporting Britain’s departure from the EU and their views today as the March 29 deadline for leaving the 28-member edges closer without the certainty of a deal.

‘I dont even care if we come out of the EU with no deal’

Irene Clugston, 74, is a retired senior social worker. She lives in Paisley. 


“The EU has grown into a great big monster in my eyes. I’m not sure people knew what was envisaged when we joined [the EU]. I don’t want to be a European. I’m not [a supporter] of the Scottish National Party because all they want to do is take Scotland back into Europe when the UK gets out, so we’d just become European again.

“In the last few years, I’ve just felt like we’re being run by Germany and France with all these rules – so that’s why I decided to come out. I’m still very happy about my decision – and if there was another referendum, I’d vote out again. I don’t even care if we come out of the EU with no deal. We’re a strong country and okay, I know people will suffer – probably old age pensioners like myself, but I just feel we’ll become a better country.”

‘It does feel odd that I voted the opposite way to how Scotland as a whole voted’

Alistair Kirkland, 52, is a support worker from Argyllshire, on the Scottish west coast.


“I voted to leave so we could have more control of our own destiny. But things are now coming out that weren’t discussed prior to us voting. Like the Northern Irish border issue, a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit – I don’t recall a debate on any of these subjects. Then, it was just a case of do you want to leave or do you want to remain?

“But I still stand by my vote to leave – what I don’t want is another referendum. The country is still divided, so it would be a waste of time. 

“It does feel odd that I voted the opposite way to how Scotland as a whole voted. I do wonder what they have seen differently compared to what I have. I voted ‘yes’ to Scottish independence in 2014, but if another independence referendum happened, I’d probably vote ‘no’ because you’d be divided from the rest of Britain but probably part of the EU.” 

‘If there was another vote today, I’d vote the other way’

Retired customs officer Fraser McDonald, 74, and his wife, Lesley, 70, a retired nurse, live in Renfrew, outside Glasgow. 


Fraser: “I voted for Brexit because I’ve always been against us joining the EU, way back to when we joined [the then-European Economic Community in 1973]. I had enough foresight to see that we were leading to a ‘United States of Europe’. And I didn’t want to be part of that. I thought we were big enough and powerful enough to do our own thing. 

“However, we’re over two years down the line and I feel it’s going to affect the British economy something awful. So, if there was another vote today, I’d vote the other way – I’d vote to Remain.”

Lesley: “I was totally confused at the time of the Brexit debate – but then I decided to vote to leave. But it was such a shock in the morning when I saw the result – and how close it was.

“Today, I’m totally fed up with the whole thing – it’s just Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. It gets you down and they’ve forgotten about the rest of the country, which is falling apart. If there was another vote, I’d change my mind – it’s not going to do us any good, and it’s the young people it’s going to affect.”

‘There’s logical inconsistency in the remain position if you support Scottish independence’

Tom Walker, 32, works as a businessman between Edinburgh and South Ayrshire.

Tom Walker is pictured on the right

“My primary reason for voting to leave was my belief in sovereignty. My number one issue was the fact that the EU was becoming more and more autocratic. And I don’t think it’s the right way to go. Even though the European Union started as a trading group, it’s moving more and more towards something like the ‘United States of Europe’. I’m very much against ever-closer integration and a federated ‘United States of Europe’.

“There’s a bit of logical inconsistency in the remain position in Scotland if you support Scottish independence. If you believe it will be difficult and damaging to remove yourself from an EU union that is just decades-old then you’d have to accept that removing yourself from the UK union that is over 300 years old would be catastrophically damaging.”

‘I will admit to being a bit selfish’

James Barrie, 67, is a cattle farmer from the Scottish Borders, near England.

“I voted to leave simply because I cannot tolerate the dictatorial way that the EU is running the whole of Europe – not just Britain as a whole. I don’t think the EU is going to survive in the future in a way that is going to help farming.

“But I will admit to being a bit selfish because that is my point of view – and my son is going to be taking on the business so I don’t know what the future is going to be for him.

“From the British side of things, I don’t think the negotiations have been near tough enough to get what we’re needing. I feel I made the right decision, but if there was to be another referendum, I wouldn’t be going to the trouble to vote.” 

Opportunities have been lost because we’ve had to share our cake’

Jimmy Buchan, 58, is chief executive officer of the Scottish Seafood Association and lives in Scotland’s north-east.


“Scotland and UK fisherman, since we joined the EU, have seen their fishing rights slowly eroded and gifted to our European counterparts. I know that when you’re part of a big club, you have to share and share alike, but when it comes at the expense of your coastal communities, which have been dying on the vine, you’ve sometimes got to question whether the EU project is working in our best interests.

“Not everything about the EU is bad – but opportunities have been lost because we’ve had to share our cake with Europe. If you look around the UK, then different people voted for Brexit for completely different reasons. For the coastal communities, it was primarily to get out of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which has failed fisherman. Brexit gives us opportunities to repatriate fishing grounds.”

Follow Alasdair Soussi on Twitter: @AlasdairSoussi

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