In light of the increased vote recorded by UKIP at the European elections, a few observations may be in order.
Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP, asserted that the increased UKIP vote north of the border showed that Scotland is no different from England in its political views.
However, in 2009 UKIP received 16 per cent of the UK vote and five per cent of the Scottish – a difference of 11 per cent. In this year’s election the figures were 27 per cent and 10 – a difference of 17. The gap is widening, not closing.
It seems to be a recent tactic adopted by the No campaign to attempt to show that England and Scotland are politically indistinguishable. Yet UKIP came fourth in Scotland. We still appear to be rejecting the policies of the far right more strongly than our friends south of the border.
It is a common conceit among No campaigners that belief in the welfare state and a desire for greater social cohesion and fairness are “British” values. These are, in truth, personal assertions of values which, depending on your point of view, would be more accurately labelled moral, compassionate, decent, Christian and so forth.
However, anyone of any nationality can choose to hold these views.
They are not Scottish any more than they are English or British, but a majority of Scots appear to be endorsing them by their voting patterns, and wish to see them put into practice and infuse their social, economic and political structures by democratic means. And that includes substantial numbers in the No camp as well as the Yes camp.
The UKIP candidate elected in Scotland, David Coburn, has begun inauspiciously.
In his campaign literature he described himself as an Edinburgh-based businessman, but when the returning officer read out his home address it turned out to be in Kensington, London. One of his first comments was to describe Alex Salmond as a “nasty little dictator”.
Whatever your views of the First Minister, he is the only leader in all the parliaments/assemblies of the UK (Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Westminster) who has been elected with a clear majority. Apart from the offensive personal nature of such an attack, it also shows disrespect for the office of First Minister, and it does nothing to encourage a civilised debate on the merits of independence or Union.
UKIP has been portrayed as a party which simply opposes the EU and wishes to severely restrict immigration. In the TV debates between Nick Clegg and UKIP’s Nigel Farage, Liberal Democrat leader Clegg made the grave error of fighting the battle wholly on his opponent’s ground.
Why did he not probe further into UKIP’s British domestic policies?
These include abolishing the top rate of tax and making the least well-off pay the same rate as millionaires.
There are also proposals to abolish guaranteed paid holidays and maternity leave, curtail the powers of the Scottish Parliament, privatise the NHS, drastically cut the public sector, abandon renewable energy projects (one of Scotland’s most dynamic industries) and abolish the Human Rights Act.
Nigel Farage likes to portray himself as an ordinary bloke leading a popular crusade against the “establishment”, but he is a millionaire who made his fortune as a stockbroker dealing in futures – hardly ordinary and actually part of that financial clique which plunged Britain into severe economic recession which the less well off are still paying for.
Hypocrisy and rabid ideological zeal appear to be the hallmarks of the UKIP political beast emerging from the South.
Traditional One-Nation Tories like Michael Heseltine and Malcolm Rifkind must be getting increasingly anxious that their party feels compelled to follow in the wake of the wrecking machine that is UKIP in order to hold on to their vote. Many Tories in the Borders must also fear that their socially-cohesive brand of Conservatism is under threat from the me-first neoliberalism which has even infected the Labour Party.
Perhaps the unthinkable needs to be considered – an independent Scotland where consensus is not regarded as a dirty word, and where social inclusiveness is the aim of all parties. Perhaps, too, this is how traditional Scottish Conservatism will regain its once powerful position in Scottish society.