The SNP has seized on the insurgent performance of UKIP in the Eastleigh by-election to peddle its case of Scottish exceptionalism, which fits its narrative of the inherent social and political superiority of the Salmonellans over the denizens of Poundland.
SNP Deputy Leader tells us that “Eastleigh shows how far the politics of Westminster has diverged from Scotland…”- or in other words, ‘we do not have their sort up here.’
Ms Sturgeon has considerable form as a rather poor political commentator, famously having tweeted to the whole world on Council election day 2012 that Labour in Glasgow were “in meltdown”, while in fact Labour was on course to a stunning overall majority in the city.
However, let us take her seriously for a minute, and examine the idea that there are no UKIP types north of border.
That means no-one in Scotland is opposed to EU membership; no-one is opposed to immigration; no-one has been spooked by exaggerated scare stories about Bulgarians and Romanians; no-one wants to bring back grammar schools; and no-one would increase prison places by 40% (presumably to lock up Bulgarians and Romanians).
As a proxy for political research, it might be useful to look at newspaper readership. For example, if the above were the case, there would be no-one to read and buy the Daily Mail at all. As the current circulation figures of that paper are over 100,000 on each weekday and 140,000 for the Sunday edition, this is obviously tosh.
The people who support UKIP and its ideas are indeed alive and well in Scotland and in very considerable numbers, and the only question is why they do not vote for that party in Scottish elections. The SNP needs to look no further than its own electorate to find where they are.
After all, would they vote for Scottish Labour? Certainly not. For the LibDems? Unlikely. The Tories? Irrelevant. Which leaves only one option: the Scottish party which looks to harden borders, look after number one, wave flags and talk about national sovereignty and ‘taking control of [their] own affairs.’ Can you tell what is yet? Yep, the SNP is the party in Scotland that would be most attractive to UKIP supporters.
Which also adds a further twist when it comes to the 2014 independence referendum, which could unravel the SNP’s support for a Yes vote. This includes not just the UKIP types of the Scottish suburbs, but also many others who lend the SNP their votes: the Tories who support them in rural Scotland, the LibDems who defected in horror at the coalition in 2011, and the Labour lefties for whom class analysis trumps bourgeois nationalism.
In other words, the more the SNP and the Yes campaign paint their picture of Scotland’s difference from (in their eyes superiority to) England, the more they will alienate that majority of Scots who feel as much British as they do Scottish. And this is not surprising, as the Scots and the English are not so different after all.
Peter Russell is a retired speechwriter and researcher at Glasgow City Council. This post was originally published on his blog, Planet Pedro!
Follow Peter on Twitter at @Planet_Pedro.