Why can’t the BBC see Green?
The BBC has decided that UKIP is, in Scotland, now electorally equivalent to the Scottish Greens, and should receive similar election coverage for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections on 5th May 2016.
In doing so, the BBC Trust doubtless hope that pretending in advance that UKIP is a major party in Scottish politics will make them so.
I am a member of the Scottish Green party, since June last year. What follows, however, is an unexciting post full of statistics on the relative support of UKIP in Scotland versus the Scottish Greens.
In the first Holyrood elections, 6th May 1999:
- Labour got 908,392 constituency votes and 786,818 regional votes and 56 MSPs – 53 constituency, 3 list.
- SNP got 672,757 constituency votes and 638,644 regional votes and 35 MSPs – 7 constituency, 28 list.
- Conservative got 364,225 constituency votes and 359,109 regional votes and 18 MSPs – all list.
- Liberal Democrats got 331,279 constituency votes and 225,774 regional votes and 17 MSPs – 12 constituency, 5 list.
- Scottish Green got 84,024 regional votes and 1 MSP – Robin Harper for the Lothians.
- UKIP got 1,502 regional votes for the lone candidate they stood in the South of Scotland.
(In the South of Scotland, Scottish Green got 9,467 regional votes.)
In the second Holyrood elections, 1st May 2003:
- Labour got 659,879 constituency votes and 561,379 regional votes and 56 MSPs – 53 constituency, 3 list.
- SNP got 449,476 constituency votes and 399,659 regional votes and 35 MSPs – 7 constituency, 28 list.
- Conservative got 312,598 constituency votes and 296,929 regional votes and 18 MSPs – all list.
- Liberal Democrats got 286,150 constituency votes and 225,774 regional votes and 17 MSPs – 12 constituency, 5 list.
- Scottish Green got 132,138 regional votes and 7 MSPs.
- No candidate for UKIP stood for election
(A UKIP candidate stood in the Glasgow Cathcart by-election on 29th September 2005, and got 54 votes, 0.4%: in the same election the Scottish Green candidate got 548 votes, 3.6%.)
In the third Holyrood elections, 3rd May 2007 (the guddle of the ballots year):
- Labour got 648,374 constituency votes and 595,415 regional votes and 46 MSPs – 37 constituency, 9 list.
- SNP got 664,227 constituency votes and 633,401 regional votes and 47 MSPs – 21 constituency, 26 list.
- Conservatives got 334,743 constituency votes and 284,005 regional votes and 17 MSPs – 4 constituency, 13 list.
- Liberal Democrats got 326,232 constituency votes and 230,671 regional votes and 16 MSPs – 11 constituency, 5 list.
- Scottish Green got 2,971 constituency votes and 82,584 regional votes and 2 MSPs, both list.
- UKIP got 8,197 regional votes, standing candidates in all regions for the first time.
(For comparison, in 2007, the BNP also stood candidates in every region in Scotland and got 24,616 regional votes.)
In the fourth Holyrood elections, 5th May 2011:
- Labour got 630,461 constituency votes and 523,559 regional votes and 46 MSPs – 37 constituency, 9 list.
- SNP got 902,915 constituency votes and 876,421 regional votes and 47 MSPs – 21 constituency, 26 list.
- Conservatives got 276,652 constituency votes and 245,967 regional votes and 17 MSPs – 4 constituency, 13 list.
- Liberal Democrats got 157,714 constituency votes and 103,472 regional votes and 16 MSPs – 11 constituency, 5 list.
- Scottish Green got 87,060 regional votes and 2 MSPs, both list.
- UKIP got 2,508 constitutency votes and 18,138 regional votes, and no MSPs.
(For comparison, in 2011, the Scottish Senior Citizens party, who’d got one regional MSP in 2003, also stood in multiple regions in 2007 and got 24,616 regional votes.)
In the Scottish local elections, 3rd May 2012, for 1223 seats in 32 local councils:
- Labour stood 497 candidates and got 488,703 first-preference votes and 394 councillors.
- SNP stood 613 candidates and got 503,233 first-preference votes and 425 councillors.
- Conservatives stood 362 candidates and got 206,599 first-preference votes and 115 councillors.
- Liberal Democrats stood 247 candidates and got 103,087 first-preference votes and 71 councillors.
- Scottish Greens stood 86 candidates and got 36,000 first-preference votes and 14 councillors.
- UKIP stood 37 candidates and got 4,289 first-preference votes and no councillors.
(For comparison, the Scottish Socialist Party stood 31 candidates and got 4,183 first-preference votes and one councillor, Jim Bollan in the Leven Ward of West Dunbartonshire council.)
To break that down still further:
- Labour: average of 983 first-preference votes per candidate
- SNP: average of 820 first-preference votes per candidate
- Conservatives: average of 570 first-preference votes per candidate
- Liberal Democrats: average of 417 first-preference votes per candidate
- Scottish Green: average of 418 first-preference votes per candidate
- Scottish Socialist Party: average of 134 first-preference votes per candidate
- UKIP: average of 115 first-preference votes per candidate
UKIP have never won any seats in any council election in Scotland.
UKIP have never won any Scottish Parliamentary seats – nor have they ever come close to winning any UK Parliamentary seats.
In May 2014, for the first time, UKIP got an elected representative in Scotland: David Coburn, born in Glasgow, is now one of six MEPs for Scotland, home address in Kensington: not registered to vote in Scotland – at least, not by September 2014. Coburn’s website still describes him as “UKIP London Regional Chairman, Member of UKIP NEC, UKIP London Assembly candidate”.
UKIP’s only Scottish MEP lives in Kensington and wasn’t registered to vote in Scotland for the independence referendum.
Coburn also stood as a candidate in Falkirk in May 2015 UK general election and managed to outpoll the LibDem candidate by a few hundred votes – both UKIP and LibDem lost their deposit with 3% and 2% of the vote respectively. The Scottish Greens, targeting their resources, didn’t stand in Falkirk constituency in the UK general election, so no direct comparison is possible, but in a council by-election in Falkirk on 13th August 2015, the Scottish Green candidate got 4.6% of the vote – UKIP didn’t stand.
In Glasgow North, where both UKIP and Scottish Green stood candidates, the Scottish Green candidate got 6.2% of the vote and UKIP got 1.3%. Overall, in the Scottish constituencies in the UK general election, UKIP averaged fewer votes per seat than the Scottish Greens.
But the BBC’s policy in Scotland has steadily been to treat UKIP as if it were a bigger party – as if it were electorally equivalent or even greater than the Scottish Greens.
The BBC’s policy in Scotland has steadily been to treat the Scottish Greens as if it were a minor party, rather than one of the five major parties in Scotland.
For the Scottish Parliamentary elections this year, the BBC plans to perpetuate its previous bias against the Scottish Greens and in favour of UKIP, claiming:
“Since 2011, Ukip has demonstrated an increase in support in Scotland and this should be reflected with coverage up to a similar level to the Scottish Green Party.”
Arthur Misty Thackeray, chief of staff for the Kensington-based UKIP MEP, is apparently hoping to become a regional MSP for Glasgow despite previous comments about the “the institutionally Catholicised pretendy parliament”.
Lothians Green MSP Alison Johnstone said:
“Only five parties have won continuous representation in the Scottish Parliament and the Greens are one of them.
“It is disappointing that the BBC Trust’s proposed guidance does not reflect this.
“Polling clearly shows the Greens on course to outnumber the Lib Dems, so the proposal to give them parity with the other three parties but relegate us does not add up.
“Given the significant role Scottish Greens are likely to play in the next parliament, the public deserve to hear and scrutinise what we have to say.
“We’d urge anyone who believes the Scottish Greens deserve fair treatment from the BBC in the run up to and during the 2016 election to join us in making this case.”