On 22nd May, Scotland goes to the polls: the results could change politics in Scotland forever.
Scotland has six MEPs. Two SNP, two Labour, a Tory and a LibDem. UKIP are hopeful – Farage is even having a rally in Edinburgh on Friday 9th May – that the drop in support for the Tories could give UKIP an elected seat in Scotland for the first time.
Brian Monteith writes in ConHome, of a worrying poll that puts UKIP support at 19%:
What it reminds us is that the Scottish electorate is just like the British electorate – despite wild claims to the contrary by the Scottish nationalists.
For the reality must surely be that UKIP is doing well despite any significant presence on the ground, it is pitching to the public through Nigel Farage and a nationwide campaign and it is having a very similar effect in Scotland to that seen in England.
The same poll that gives UKIP 18 per cent also gives Labour 25 per cent and the SNP 29 per cent – and it would be safe to assume that were the SNP not a factor then UKIP could take a significant slice of the SNP vote share, possibly in the region of a further 10 percent – giving it a very respectable 28 per cent. It should be remembered that a recent poll put Scottish support for leaving the EU at 37 per cent – higher than many polls put support for Scotland leaving the UK, and higher than the YouGov poll put support for the SNP itself.
The six who were elected in 2009 with a turnout of 28.5% are:
- SNP: Ian Hudghton, Alyn Smith: 29.1% – Greens/European Free Alliance
- Labour: David Martin, Catherine Stihler: 20.1% – Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament / Party of European Socialists
- Conservative: Struan Stevenson: 16.8% (retiring: Ian Duncan is the top-of-the-list candidate this year) – European Conservative and Reformists
- Liberal Democrat: George Lyon: 11.5% – Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
The ECR group was formed by David Cameron in 2009 of right-wing Euro-sceptic MEPs: the UK Conservative MEPs are the largest single bloc, and the second-largest are the Polish Law and Justice party.
The Scottish Greens got 7.3% and did not get a seat.
Nor did UKIP (5.1%), the BNP (2.5%), or the Scottish Christian Party (1.5%).
There’s the rightwing xenophobic Lega Nord, the second largest grouping in his Europe of Freedom and Democracy group. Its founder Umberto Bossi said illegal immigrants should be shot, and Farage himself had to jettison one of its MEPs from the group last year after racist comments about Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s first black minister. There’s True Finns. One of its officials suggested minority groups might wear identifying armbands. There’s the Danish People’s Party. In 2002 its MEP Morten Messerschmidt received a suspended prison sentence for racially motivated offences. And a shout out to Frank Vanhecke, the former leader of Belgium’s Vlaams Blok, the far-right party disbanded after a court said it broke anti-racist laws. Comforting isn’t it? Nigel’s chums as he holds the EU’s feet to the fire.
UKIP have never won an election in Scotland. They want to, not least because once a party has won at least one seat in an election they are entitled to full equality under Electoral Commission rules. (They have never even achieved a seat by the UKIP method of a Conservative resigning from their party to join UKIP instead.) And they stand a better chance of doing so at the European elections than at any other time, because so few people vote in them.
If UKIP boost their share of the vote from last time by six percent (and they are polling at 10% in Scotland now), they get David Coburn, their London Regional Chairman, as their UKIP representative for Scotland. He lives and works in London – the last election he stood for was the London Assembly in 2012, and his political views include opposition to same-sex marriage. Coburn’s selection appears to have been the end-result of a coup within Scottish UKIP which got the former chair, Lord Monckton, sacked in January 2014. It is reported that Nigel Farage preferred Coburn, who is himself openly gay and therefore presumably a bit less likely to embarrass the party with talk of flooding caused by gay marriage while at the same time openly loyal enough to oppose his own basic human rights for his party.
UKIP are a racist party that attract racist members and racist representatives: they are allied in the European Parliament with parties even more openly racist than they are. The UKIP representative on BBC Question Time last week said that UKIP were the only party with a ban on party members also joining the BNP: they are also the only party that needs such a ban.
UKIP are a homophobic party that attracts and rewards homophobes (and self-deprecatory gay men). Nigel Farage claims they oppose same-sex marriage only because of the European Court of Human Rights – but Gary Powell, a gay Conservative activist, offers a solid analysis that the real reason for UKIP coming out against same-sex marriage was pure electoral opportunism: a chance to harvest voters who’d rejected the Tories over Cameron’s support for lifting the ban on same-sex marriage.
From comments made by MEPs like Roger Helmer, I think too there was a strong element of senior UKIP party members, wealthy straight white men long-accustomed to being able to say whatever they pleased about gay people, people of colour, and women, not seeing any long-term difficulty at all with opposing same-sex marriage, any more than they see any difficulty with supporting an MEP who makes comments about “Bongo Bongo Land”, or one who claims the reason men predominate in more senior jobs is because women have babies:
“If you look at the people who get degrees more, women get them and they are getting the jobs in the work place, but for various reasons, they don’t have the ambition to go right to the top because something gets in the way. It’s called a baby.
“I’ve never had a baby, but I understand if you do have a baby it can change your life – it changes your ambitions. So, the route is there. Those females who really want to get to the top do so.”
I don’t know the gender balance of UKIP’s 200+ council representatives, but until March 2011, UKIP had never put forward a single woman to stand for any parliamentary by-election (and only 4 out of 17 since).
In September we vote on independence for Scotland. I’ve got my own views on that, but regardless of which way Scotland votes in five months time, the six Scottish MEPs will continue to represent us at the European Parliament. (Claims that Scotland wouldn’t be a member of the EU after March 2016 if Yes gets the majority are a red herring.) Whether Yes or No wins in September, it matters what kind of country you want Scotland to be.
The European Parliament votes on issues such working conditions – including zero-hour contracts – EU membership, immigration, bank regulation, the ‘Robin Hood’ tax, fracking, NATO, same-sex marriage, and abortion.
The only hustings in the Lothians – your only chance to question party representatives directly – will be onWednesday 14th May at 6:30pm, Augustine United Church on George IV Bridge.
Lorna Frost, one of the organisers, says:
‘We’re giving the mainstream parties a chance to meet electors directly and publicise the way they would tackle the pressing issues that affect everyone in Europe. We want to encourage voters to engage with their future MEPs, since extreme right-wing parties exploit the lack of interest and low turnout in these elections to boost their profile.’
The hustings will be chaired by Annie McCrae, Educational Institute of Scotland and Vice-Chair of the STUC Women’s Committee. The Labour Party will be represented by their European list candidate Derek Munn, the SNP by candidate Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, and the Liberal Democrats by candidate Siobhan Mathers. The Conservatives and Greens have been contacted and confirmed they will send a representative.
Whether or not you come to the hustings: let’s prove on Thursday 22nd May that Scotland is different. Let’s show UKIP that we’ll give them no foothold here.