The benefits of our EU membership . . .

 - Membership of the EU makes us stronger, more secure and more influential. -

Scotland enjoys social, cultural and economic benefits as part of the EU.

Our list of the the benefits of Scotland's EU membership are based on The Scottish Government's, "The Benefits of Scotland's EU Membership, 2015" booklet which can be downloaded here.

Economic Benefits display texthide text

"The Weir Group is in favour of the UK's continued membership of the European Union. It is a position based on economics not politics. There is an argument for the EU to perform better but not for the UK to withdraw from such a successful economic partnership. " - Keith Cochrane, CEO engineering giant, Weir Group

Working man with hard hat Welder Welding

Over the last forty years Scotland's businesses, organisations and people have benefitted from our being part of the EU, the world's largest economy and trading area, capable of competing with advanced economies across the globe.

One of the EU’s key achievements is a shared arrangement between the 28 Member States to establish a single market (sometimes also called the ‘internal’ market), its main economic engine.

Today the EU is the world’s largest single market, comprising over 500 million people and 20 million businesses. Within the Single Market the free movement of goods, services, capital and people is assured – the so-called four freedoms - and provides a massive boost for the Scottish economy, delivering jobs, investment and a huge market for our exports.

The EU’S Global Influence (World GDP levels in 2012):

The EU’S Global Influence (World GDP levels in 2012):









As a member of the Single Market our companies can sell to any other EU country, without paying import or export tariffs or having to obtain regulatory approval, and can invest wherever they wish within its borders.

We can also travel, study, live, shop, do business, work and retire in any EU country and those coming here from other EU countries make a positive contribution to our economy and society (see Freedom of Movement).

Consumers also benefit from access to the wider range of products available across the EU, while greater competition between suppliers helps keep prices down and ensures the consumer gets the best possible value for money.

  • 336,000 - The number of jobs in Scotland it is estimated are supported by our exports to the EU, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research. This amounts to around 13% of the total Scottish workforce. (Download the report here.)
  • 42% - The EU was the destination for 42% of Scotland's total international exports in 2014 - worth £11.6 billion that year, according to the Scottish Government's figures. International exports from Scotland have now increased by 17.3% since 2010, more than the 15.9% increase for the UK as a whole.
  • 45p - The cost of EU membership per day - a lot less than most people think
  • £3,000 - The amount per household EU membership is worth according to the Confederation of British Industry. This is due to all the trade, investment, jobs and lower prices that come from our partnership with the EU. Membership is worth c. 4%-5% of UK GDP, or 62bn-£78bn, roughly the size of the economies of NE England and Northern Ireland combined. (Download the report here.)
  • £340 - The annual net contribution to the EU per household. Given these figures families are making close on a 10-to-1 return on their investment in the EU.
  • £450 - The amount, according to the European Commission, saved by each consumer per year through membership of the EU. This is because EU membership drives down the price of goods and services through increased competition. Download document here.
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Inward Investment display text hide text


oil rig

Membership of the EU single market plays an important role in attracting foreign direct investment, both from within and outside the EU, to Scotland. This is an area in which Scotland has performed strongly in recent years.

By investing in Scotland foreign companies not only gain access to Scotland’s highly skilled and productive labour force, they are able to export to the large EU single market, free from import duties and other trade restrictions.

Jobs are created by EU companies investing in Scotland, which they can do more easily than in non-EU countries. Companies from outside the EU recognise the huge benefit of investing in Scotland and being able to access the EU single market.

In addition to the jobs created through FDI, foreign-owned firms have the potential to boost the underlying growth potential of Scotland’s economy.

  • 40% - There were over 2,100 foreign-owned companies in Scotland in 2013. They employed around 302,000 people and had a combined turnover of £101 billion.
    - around 40% of these companies were ultimately owned by firms based in the EU.
  • 2006 - Scotland is well placed to continue its success in attracting global investment. It's been ranked in the top two UK regions outside of London for Foreign Direct Investment in each year since 2006 according to the Ernst & Young Attractiveness Survey.
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Global Trade display text hide text

Bulk carrier ship

Businesses in Scotland also benefit from the large number of bilateral trade deals that the EU has negotiated with third countries, providing Member States with preferential, and often free, access to these markets.

This is because the EU is the largest economy in the world and we can negotiate with the USA, China and India as an equal. Outside the EU we could not.

  • The EU has delivered trade agreements with over 50 countries - amongst them Switzerland, Norway, South Korea and Mexico - with a further 11 agreed and soon to be implemented, including an agreement with Canada.
  • If the EU were to complete all its on-going negotiations on trade agreements tomorrow, it could add 2.2% to the EU's GDP and generate 2.2 million new jobs.
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EU Funding display text hide text

EU funding comes to Scotland through European Structural Funds, Common Agricultural Policy direct payments and through winning competitive funding because of our expertise.

cows, vegatables and wheat fields
  • €1.9 billion - The funding package for Scotland in 2014-2020 (€985 million of European Regional and Social Funding, matched by Scottish Government and partner funding) which will support the aspiration to deliver sustainable economic growth for all in Scotland.
  • €844 million of the total funding package is the EU's contribution to Scotland's Rural Development Programme for 2014-2020. SRDP is funded through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Scottish Government. Some 95% of Scotland's land area is classed as rural and the SRDP will support farming and forestry sectors and help develop and sustain vibrant communities, including support for small rural businesses and broadband. It will also further utilise, protect and improve Scotland's natural environment and heritage as well as help to address the impact of climate change.
  • €3.5 billion - The amount of Common Agricultural Policy direct payments that Scotland will receive between 2014 and 2020. These payments to farmers are entirely funded through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund and serve many purposes. They help farmers not just to produce food, but also to protect the environment, improve animal welfare and sustain viable communities.
  • €572 million - The total amount of competitive funding won by Scottish universities between 2007 and 2014 - almost 1.3% of the research funding programme for the whole of the EU. This has boosted the quality of research, benefited the economy and helped Scottish academics to tap into a continent-wide pool of knowledge.
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Freedom of Movement display text hide text

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The right to freedom of movement, through the Single Market, is of huge benefit to those from Scotland who want to live, study, shop, work, do business and retire – with full pension entitlements - elsewhere in the EU.

In turn, migration from the EU has contributed hugely to the diversity of our culture, the prosperity of our economy and the strength of our society.

EU migrants pay more in taxes and social security than they receive in benefits.

  • 171,000 - The number of individuals born elsewhere in the EU currently resident in Scotland.
  • 2.2 million - The estimated number of those from the UK living in other EU countries, almost the same number as those from the rest of the EU who live in the UK.
  • £20 billion - The estimated positive net contribution of EU migrants to the UK economy between 2001 and 2011 according to University College London research from 2014. EU migrants pay more in taxes and social security than they receive in benefits because they tend to be younger and more economically-active than our own workforce.
  • 1.2% - The percentage of economically non-active EU migrants in the UK. A European Commission report published in 2013 found that the number of non-active EU migrants in the UK is a miniscule 1.2% of the total population.
  • 19,200 – The number of students from the rest of the EU at Scottish universities, attracting top talent and contributing positively to the Scottish economy.
  • Over 1,400 - The number of students from Scottish universities supported by the Erasmus programme to study abroad in 2012/13. Students from Scotland can train and study in any EU country under the same conditions as that country's nationals. Over its lifetime the new Erasmus+ programme will see an increase of over 40% in EU funding to an overall budget of €14.7 billion - providing grants for more than four million people to study, train, gain work experience or volunteer abroad in 2014-2020.
  • 26 weeks - The number of weeks of maternity leave guaranteed by EU rules. The EU has provided important social protections for workers in Scotland and across the continent, including four weeks paid holiday a year and protections from redundancy, amongst other things. The EU has also extended these benefits to workers on fixed-term temporary contracts.
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The Environment display text hide text

"From the air we breathe to the water we drink the EU has played a key role in driving the protection of our environment for more than 40 years. The EU hasn’t been perfect but working together in Europe on cross boundary issues like climate change, air pollution and product standards is the only sensible thing to do."

- Dr Richard Dixon, Director, Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Scotland has an extremely rich and well protected environment, which is famous throughout the world and is crucial to ensuring we have a robust economy and society. It is vital that we protect this for both present and future generations.

By its very nature the environment transcends political, legal and man-made boundaries. As a result, cooperation between EU Member States and between the EU and the rest of the world is essential if we are to tackle challenges which impact on us all. These range from droughts and floods, to pollution and threats to Europe’s rich natural capital and biodiversity.

Addressing these challenges requires collective action involving the EU, national, regional and local governments, businesses, Non-Governmental Organisations and ordinary individuals. This has to include outreach to our international partners so that action is taken on a global scale The EU protects our living environment and has some of the world's highest environmental standards. Environment policy helps green the EU economy, protect nature, and safeguard the health and quality of life of people living in the EU.

Water, air pollution and chemicals are among people's top environmental concerns. To safeguard people from environment-related pressures and risks to health and wellbeing, EU policy aims to:

  • Guarantee safe drinking and bathing water.
  • Improve air quality and reduce noise.
  • Reduce or eliminate the effects of harmful chemicals.

Renewables Uptake:

Scotland - 42%, EU - 23.5%

Electricity delivered from renewable sources accounts for a greater proportion of gross electricity consumption in Scotland, than across the EU overall.

With strong support from Scotland, the UK has been a key driving force behind EU climate diplomacy; setting high ambition at home, contributing significant international climate finance, and marshalling support from other progressive EU partners.

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Global challenges

As the world population continues to expand, pressure on the Earth’s finite resources is growing at an unprecedented rate and global environmental challenges become more pressing. More action is needed to ensure that:

  • Air, oceans and other water resources are kept clean.
  • Land and ecosystems are used sustainably.
  • Climate change is kept to manageable levels.

As a global actor, the EU plays a key role in international efforts to address these.

Within the EU we can, for example, tackle climate change more effectively than we can on our own. Being part of the EU has positioned the UK and Scotland at the forefront of global action on this challenge, with 20% of the EU’s budget spent on addressing it.

Through our influence within the EU we can use the EU platform to shape the future world in which we, and most importantly our children, will live.

Reduction in Greenhouse gas emissions 1990-2012:

Reduction in Greenhouse gas emissions 1990-2012:







Greenhouse Gas Emissions fell faster in Scotland between 1990 and 2012, than in the UK or across the EU.

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Strength, Security and Influence display text hide text


European union cyber security conference

handcuffed man

military aircraft


There are many global threats - whether it is climate change, energy security, organised crime, terrorism, rogue states or international trade - where the EU has much greater influence than the actions taken by 28 individual nations ever could. Only through cooperation can we overcome these threats.

International problems require international responses. We face the same threats as all other European countries: from terrorism and declining relations with Russia to climate change, humanitarian aid and the instability caused by global poverty.

We will face these challenges more effectively by working with our European allies - something that the US and the C ommonwealth understand and support. Our power and influence are hugely increased by our membership of the EU.

Terrorism does not recognise borders, which is why working with EU countries in the fight against crime is so important. The European Arrest Warrant makes it easier to deport foreign criminals, and to bring British criminals who have fled abroad to justice.


Within the EU we are in a strong position to negotiate free trade deals with other countries, something of considerable benefit to Scottish businesses.


Within the EU we can also climate change more effectively. On its own we would be too small to successfully lead the global effort to deal with global warming. As an EU member state, however, we can. 20% of the EU’s budget is to be spent on climate change, and the EU has a proven track record of leadership on the issue, including reducing carbon emissions today to 18.5% below their level in 1990.

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The EU and You display text hide text

inspecting a tomato

European health insurance card

a sign for consular protection of unrepresented EU citizens

EU flag

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a retired couple living abroad

using a mobile on the beach

European justice

EU membership delivers numerous benefits evident in the day-to-day life of people in Scotland. When we go to work or university, go on holiday, make a phone call or buy a product online, we benefit from our membership of the European Union:

  • Freedom of movement means that we can travel, live, study, shop, work and retire in any EU country.
  • EU action has abolished roaming charges, and greater competition between suppliers has led, for example, to a cut in air fares, ensuring consumers get the best value for money.
  • Consumers benefit from access to the wider range of products available across the EU.
  • If you fall ill or have an accident anywhere in the EU, you are entitled, through the European Health Insurance card, to public healthcare under the same conditions as you would receive in Scotland.
  • Holidaying in the EU is easier than anywhere else in the world. With no visas, and often no passport controls either, travelling in Europe is largely hassle-free.
  • Through the EU, Scotland is part of a union with some of the highest standards of food and product safety in the world - producers worldwide must match the EU's standards if they want to see their products in Scotland.
  • EU citizens are strongly protected when shopping online - you have the right to return products within 14 days if they are unsatisfactory, even when shopping outside Scotland.
  • The EU has guaranteed that if your train, plane, bus or ferry is cancelled or delayed, you will receive compensation.
  • If you get into difficulty whilst outside the EU, you can receive help from any EU Member State's embassy or consulate, if there is no UK assistance available.

"If you want to run the EU, stay in the EU. If you want to be run by the EU, feel free to join us in the European Economic Area." - Nikolai Astrup, Norwegian Conservative MP.

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Worse Off Out display text hide text

EU membership makes Scotland richer and safer. It provides unmatched opportunities for our companies; allows us to trade around the world; helps keep us secure; and benefits us at work, on holiday or when doing the weekly shop.

There is no alternative to EU membership that would provide all of these benefits. It is simply untrue that we would be able to keep all or most of the benefits of the EU without paying the costs.

Norwegian flag

Norway suffers from regulation without representation. As a member of the European Economic Area, Norway is part of the Single Market. However, because it is not in the EU, it has no power over Single Market regulations that affect its economy. Norway still has to pay the EU for the privilege, and accept the free movement of people.

Swiss flag

Switzerland’s deal with the EU is unique, and messy. Switzerland has partial access to the Single Market, but not in financial services. It took the Swiss 50 years to get this partial access, and the EU has said it is not a model to be followed by other countries. The Swiss people voted to restrict EU immigration, but found that this was forbidden under their bilateral agreements.

Turkish flag

Turkey’s customs union is the worst of all worlds. As part of a customs union, like Turkey, the UK would enjoy only the free movement of goods, meaning that 80% of our economy would not be covered. We would be completely shut out of global trade negotiations, and we would still have to apply tariffs on some imports.

Under the World Trade Organisation rules, Scottish companies would face tariffs and be locked out of the Single Market. Under WTO rules we would be outside of the Single Market. Our companies would have to pay tariffs, and we would still have to abide by EU standards to export to Europe.

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