The Scottish National Party has signalled it would look to derail David Cameron’s hopes of holding a snap in-out EU referendum in July as it clashes with school holidays north of the border.
The party’s Europe spokesman, Stephen Gethins, has told The Huffington Post UK the Scotland independence referendum in 2014 underlined the need for “time for a debate” and a summer vote “poses problems”.
Government sources are confident the Prime Minister will have secured a new deal for the UK with European leaders by February, meaning he can put his proposal to the public as early as June.
Reports today suggest the current thinking in Downing Street is July.
A “sooner-the-better” approach is preferable among those wanting to remain in the EU - which will include the Government if its “deal” on four areas, including migrant benefits, is successful - as a vote in September and beyond would be set against the backdrop of another wave of migrants crossing the Mediterranean. That would play into the hands of eurosceptics.
The timetable is also influenced by needing around three months to pass the law giving the referendum the go-ahead, plus a campaign of at least six weeks. It means late June could be D-day at an absolute push.
But schools in Scotland start to break up at the end of that month - and overlap with the rest of the UK in August. A school holiday vote would be hugely controversial given the prospect of families being abroad or away from their voting constituency - potentially denying them the franchise.
The SNP’s Mr Gethins said: "The SNP has consistently argued that the date of the EU referendum should not conflict with the Scottish Parliament elections in May. Having the EU referendum in July poses problems with the school holidays.
"One of the lessons learned from the Scottish independence referendum was that it is really important there is time for a debate.
"The SNP will continue to make a positive case for the UK staying in Europe, and that Scotland should not be dragged out of the EU against its will."
A sub-plot to the EU referendum is SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon saying a second Scottish independence vote could be triggered if Scotland votes to stay but the rest of the UK takes them out.