Scotland

Voters' dilemmas ahead of EU elections

Portree and boat
Image caption James Cook has spoken to voters in the Borders and Portree (pictured)

Three years after the UK voted to leave the EU, the country is preparing to vote in the European election. And as Westminster grapples with Brexit, and Holyrood's focus turning to the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum, BBC Scotland's James Cook has been speaking to voters in the Borders and Skye.

Lorna Hall is getting married.

Chairs and tables await guests in the garden of her farm near Melrose while in the kitchen she is icing her own wedding cake.

Extremely busy though she is, politics are also on her mind.

Speaking to BBC Scotland's The Nine, programme, she said: "I didn't vote to leave Europe. I voted to stay in Europe. I feel very European."

Image caption Lorna Hall has been a Labour supporter all her life.

She also voted against independence for Scotland. "I didn't want to leave the UK either," she says.

"However, now I'm beginning to think maybe it can't be any worse than the mess — the complete mess — that it is at the moment and maybe Scottish representation and a vote for the SNP might be more worthwhile even though I'm still a bit unsure about the economics of the whole case."

Ms Hall worked in the NHS for years before becoming an independent health consultant. She has been a Labour supporter all her life, fighting, she says, against inequality but now she is baffled by the party's position on Brexit under Jeremy Corbyn.

"It's very muddled. I don't understand it," she says, adding "I think they've lost their way."

In his estate agency in Kelso, Ron Hastings is also fretting about the direction of a party he has supported for years, the Conservatives.

Image caption Estate agent Ron Hastings is a Conservative voter

"I would definitely put myself in the Remain camp, he says. "Better the devil you know."

So how does he feel about Theresa May's approach to Brexit?

"The fact that we're now being taken down a path which we don't want to go down is definitely a conflict and makes you think twice or even thrice about who you should be voting for," he replies.

The narrow referendum result, argues Mr Hastings, is not enough to justify the upheaval of Brexit.

With 66 million people in the UK, says the businessman, "major constitutional change should require a major groundswell of opinion not just a million here or there."

'Appallingly badly'

In Hawick some voters, like Kathy Cunningham, sound ready to walk away from the Tories.

Image caption Kathy Cunningham is losing faith with the Conservatives

How has the party handled Brexit? "Appalling badly," she says, offering a harsh critique of the prime minister.

"I wouldn't say she lied but I think she lied," says Ms Cunningham - although after a moment's thought she does allow that perhaps Mrs May was "just incapable."

As a voter who chose to leave the EU, she says the Tories have failed.

"You asked us. We told you," she said. "There were more people that want to leave. You have to do it. Otherwise, politics is completely broken."

Like many Conservative voters we spoke to in the borders, Ms Cunningham says she is now attracted to the Brexit Party.

"I think I know that Nigel Farage has always wanted to leave. He's been fighting for it for 25 years and getting nowhere and, now it's within his grasp, he's not going to let it slip away," she said.

What is extraordinary about this election is the extent to which traditional loyalties are being tested.

Facing a dilemma

In both the Conservative and Labour parties, there are many remainers and leavers who say they have been left disillusioned.

The Brexit Party, UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens are all trying to take advantage of that disillusionment.

So too is the SNP, but it also has supporters who are facing a dilemma - those who favour independence for Scotland and a withdrawal from the European Union.

In Portree on the Isle of Skye, Daniel Cullen, an aspiring actor who also works part time in a candle factory and as a children's entertainer, finds himself in that position.

Image caption Skye-based Daniel Cullen supports Brexit and Scottish independence.

He says he still finds himself leaning towards voting for the SNP because it favours another EU referendum - not because he now agrees with the party leadership's opposition to Brexit, but because he hopes a new vote would sort out the current mess and clarify what type of Brexit voters want.

"There's no black and white in this," he adds.

"It's just different degrees of wrong, probably. It is difficult to choose which side to go on.

"There was no real left-wing case made for Brexit. It was all very strongly right-wing.

"I like local accountability. I would prefer left-wing socially progressive policies, but in a localised way where you have more control over it."

'I'm a statistic'

In Coldstream, meanwhile, in the very last house before the English border, Wellington the cocker spaniel lives with Jane Keenan, who voted to remain in the EU.

Image caption Jane Keenan says she hates referendums

"I really don't know how to vote and that's the honest truth," says Ms Keenan.

"I feel that the people that we voted in should be able to deal with what the people wanted. It wasn't particularly what I wanted but most of the country did want it," she says, of the vote to leave the European Union.

Ms Keenan says she hates referendums — "I think they cause such a lot of division. You know families and friends break up because of them."

"I feel very cross that because I voted remain I'm a statistic in Nicola Sturgeon's reason for wanting another independence referendum," she adds.

Image caption Jane lives her cocker spaniel Wellington in the very last house in Coldstream before the English border.

But the fiasco of Brexit and the failure, as she sees it, to honour democracy, has turned her off politics altogether.

"If it wasn't for all those suffragettes 100 years ago, I really think I wouldn't vote. In fact I might not. And that's a very, very big thing for me to say. I feel really awful about that because I feel it's a privilege to be able to vote but it's almost meaningless."

This sense of disillusionment appears common as we approach the European parliamentary elections.

The tranquillity of the borders and the Isle of Skye belies a feeling of restlessness.

Old loyalties are weakening and many voters, it seems, are casting around for something new.

It many ways it feels like this is the most turbulent political period in a generation.