PETER RUSSELL says there’s a very simple reason why Ukip can’t get a toehold in Scottish electoral battles


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 the 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 per cent (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 (and 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.

Related Posts

16 thoughts on “Ukip in Scotland: where are they?

  1. I think all parties need to be worried about the UKIP phenomenon, and Ms Sturgeon is worryingly complacent about them, but equally Pedro’s conclusions seem as wide of the mark as the conclusion that there are no UKIP people in Scotland.

    The part about the Scots and English being more or less the same is what I have in mind. I work in England and am regularly wound up by friends and colleagues about Scots being a bunch of lefty labour loonies. They are baffled when I speak about the Tory brand being toxic. They simply don’t get it. They’re also baffled when I speak about declining or ageing population and school rolls falling. These are things they don’t really believe exist. They’re worried about booming population, immigrants swamping public services with increased demand, schools being overloaded. All stuff that just seems to have no application North of the border. So concerns either side of the border are very different, concerns because the problems are different. A one size fits all approach is what’s given us the bedroom tax. It’s not about flags, it’s about policy choices in my view.

  2. Given the fact that Ms Sturgeon’s constituency includes Govanhill and that she personally has been targeted by the extreme right I doubt she is either complacent or unaware of the level of racism that exists in Scotland.

    The rest of the piece is rather silly – indeed, academic research showing that the SNP is the party of choice for Scotland’s ethnic minorities suggests that the right wing UKIP-type vote finds a different home north of the border.

    I suspect this may be a morale boosting type article given Labour’s shifting position on immigration and indeed a likely shift on the EU. The SNP are the baddies, so they are, not us.

  3. What strange and random offerings we are currently being presented with on Labourhame and after Henry Hill’s recent hallucinations Peter Russell is no exception. His assertions of some commonality between the SNP and UKIP constituencies are quite ridiculous and belie anything that might count as evidential. For some reason Russell isn’t talking about things that are easily researched – like policy. For example Ukip are FOR keeping Trident. FOR withdrawal from the EU and FOR repealing the Human Rights Act. Ukip is against same sex marriage and bizarrely – the smoking ban. Nothing in the SNPs history, culture or policy making outcomes suggests this is a direction of SNP political travel and indeed the SNP’s political pathway points in exactly the opposite direction. it seems that the thing which really exercises Peter and leads to his ridiculous conflation is that both parties – for very different reasons – have made a big noise in UK politics and upset the staus quo whilst appealing to very differing constituencies of voters . That’s democracy for you Peter !

    1. The point Peter’s making (and which – surprise, surprise! – you’re unable to understand) is that Ukip are seen as the “anti-politics” or at least “anti-mainstream politics” alternative, in exactly the same way as the SNP are perceived in Scotland. Not everyone who votes Ukip does so because they support their stance on immigration or Europe, but because they’re disillusioned by the mainstream parties. Similarly, not everyone who votes SNP supports independence. The SNP is the preferred choice of those who feel aggrieved; in other parts of the country, where the SNP don’t stand candidates, those same types of people would be likely to support Ukip.

  4. Stop belittling the voters of Scotland by comparing their vote to a protest vote. How can you cast a protest vote for a party who are already in power ? The SNP have won 2 Scottish Parli elections, one after another , as a consequence of getting most votes in the voting system we have. You may not like that fact, you may not agree with the sysyem but clearly the people have spoken and made their choice so respect and not contempt is the appropriate response of any democrat. You belittle the democratic process in Scotland and your own democratic credentials if you can’t even acknowledge that.

    1. The key word is “grievance”, the biggest motivating factor among Ukip and SNP activists (if not voters).

  5. Thanks for the comments. Just two points in response:

    1. Domnhall Dods: some Scots don’t get their commonality with the English either: look at the recent poverty figures and see that many of the poorest areas in the UK are in English cities and Inner London. Same poverty, same potential solutions. Likewise rural poverty, sparsity problems etc – try Norfolk, Lincs etc – falling school rolls, poor emergency services, the same as the Highlands (with no Barnett formula to take these into account). The difference is that in England, these issues are not concentrated as in Scotland.

    2. My contention is not that SNP=UKIP, but that U-kippers were part of the SNP electoral bloc in 2011, along with LibDems, unhappy Tories etc. Maybe there is another story on how the former 4 party system is now a 2 and two-halves system since the minor parties have imploded.

    Finally a quote from Nigel Farage (on RT last night) – “What matters is whether our children will grow up in a country they can call their own”. Compare that with e.g., Christine Graham’s pathetic performance on NewsNicht, when she repeated exactly that mantra over and over again…

  6. Could it be that many people in Scotland now see that the SNP government, both as a minority and a majority, has actually managed things pretty well? Holyrood is now clearly established as an alternative to Westminster, which is appearing as an expensive and wasteful layer of government that we don’t need, and still a source of democratic deficit.

    You insult our intelligence with statements like: “Scotland’s difference from (and in their eyes, superiority to) England”. This should not be a discussion about identity, but about who is best placed to manage Scotland’s affairs. The discussion about UKIP is a diversion. The fact is that Labour is failing to come up with anything more than jam tomorrow, as demonstrated by Douglas Alexander’s proposals.

    We can keep getting more powers devolved (fewer ‘reserved matters’) from Westminster, or we can manage our own affairs in an independent Scotland. I for one look forward to a future as a fully independent country. Is Labour making any preparations for this possibility?

  7. What a convoluted argument within this article. I had to read it again after reading the explanation from ‘admin’ about the point Peter Russell is trying to make. That is that UKIP and the SNP are somehow anti politics parties and their supporters are protest voters. I don’t think that would stand up to any scrutiny, after all the SNP have been in government for the last 6 years, winning an overall majority in 2012.
    May I make a suggestion, Peter Russell should start with some basic facts when attempting an analysis of the similarities between the SNP and UKIP.
    For example one similarity between UKIP and the SNP is that they both think we are overgoverned and both parties want to do away with a tier of government.
    If Peter wants to develop a discusion this is a good starting point. Are we over governed? If so which tier do we get rid of? If not what are the roles and reponsibilities of each tier?

  8. Richard MacKinnon – if you do not understand the statement…

    “My contention is not that SNP=UKIP, but that U-kippers were part of the SNP electoral bloc in 2011, along with LibDems, unhappy Tories etc.”

    … I am afraid I cannot be any more helpful.

    1. You cannot honestly be saying or implying that no UKIP voters in Scotland voted for Labour but instead chose as a block vote to vote for the SNP because they see a kinship in their polar opposite views of the UK and the EU?
      There were more EX Labour voters who voted for the SNP than ex tories and UKIP combined. Keep this level of “debate” up and youll never get them back.

  9. The reason UKIP come nowhere in Scotland is because they have no specific Scottish policies (other than abolishing Holyrood and outlawing windfarms).

    UKIP continually fail to take into account the fact that Scotland is a distinct polity, different from England, which is why we have a Parliament of our own. The policies that sell well down in the shires just sound a bit silly up here. You could almost say… the electorate want different things in the two countries….

  10. Peter Russell, Your contention, that all dissatisfied voters in Scotland will be drawn to the SNP to place their protest vote is I think weak in logic, that supporters of UKIP, a British national party, will vote for the SNP because there is no UKIP candidate takes some stretch of the imagination.
    What is more I don’t think it matters that much. So what if some of the votes in the SNP bundle are from disgruntled Tories or ‘Labour lefties’, they still count the same. I can see why your hypothesis might appeal in certain circles, it must be reassuring to think that the bedrock of political thinking in Scotland is Labour and that all other opinions are some how protest anti politics movements, but you are wrong. Its Labour that has lost its way and denial of that fact, and refusal to face up to the big questions as for example, as I posed in my previous comment, ‘which parliament is superfluous to Scotland s needs’ is costing Labour dearly.

Comments are closed.