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Andrew Wilson: No UKIP foothold in Scotland

Protesters against UKIP turn out at the Corn Exchange. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Protesters against UKIP turn out at the Corn Exchange. Picture: Ian Georgeson

  • by ANDREW WILSON
 

USE YOUR vote wisely and don’t let Ukip get a foothold in Scotland advises Andrew Wilson

Whisper thin is the ­dividing line between success and failure. And on its fickle finger, fate can twist the ­future of countless lives with but a vague laconic flick. Such is the way of the world.

This is particularly true in politics. In the last European election if but 23,299 souls across a nation of five million had voted Green instead of Liberal then the Greens’ Elaine Morrison rather than the Lib Dems’ George Lyon would have served as an MEP. I will leave it to your personal taste and disposition to judge which of these two outcomes was optimal. If about 30,000 had voted SNP rather than Liberal we would have rejoiced in three SNP MEPs, not two.

These are the swings and round­abouts on which European elections motion and rotate. It’s true of all elections, of course.

In the ancient history of 2003, I lost Cumbernauld and Kilsyth constituency by 520 votes, so 260 “switchers” would have won it for me on a relatively difficult night for my party, the SNP. Even more irksome was the fact an independent roads campaigner got 567 votes running on an issue I agreed with. He was good enough to be upset at this at the count and apologised then and many years later. But he need not have worried. It was his right to run and I should have done more myself. That is always the ­lesson of election defeat.

It never does to look back in anger or regret. And above all else we should seek not to cast the blame on others as regards our own fate. We must control our own, in every sense. It is healthier. Not always possible, but healthier in our outlook, always.

The point is the old adage that “every vote counts”. The European election is particularly hair-raising because so few of us bother to vote. Last time 2.8 million Scottish voters didn’t bother. This is a shame and it is a particularly focused issue in the election a week on Thursday.

The last three opinion polls put Ukip in first place across the UK. In Scotland they currently poll in fourth place and wouldn’t get a Scottish MEP. That outcome is a marginal one though. The Liberals could be set to lose their single representative though they remain quietly confident they have the organisational capacity to get their core vote out in core seats. I am not so sure.

So if the remarkable amount of broadcast coverage Ukip is getting from London starts to drive up their almost entirely absent campaign in Scotland, this election could really come down to a straight fight between the SNP and Ukip for the last seat going.

In personal terms that would mean choosing between the clever Glas­wegian supermum in the shape of ­Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and the ­person topping Ukip’s Scottish list, David Coburn.

No harm to that person, who obviously cares enough to put himself forward, but he has been parachuted in from chairing the Ukip London organisation as most of their Scottish candidates resigned from their list ­after a big fall-out.

So while support for Ukip is minimal north of the Border the idea of having our country represented by a last-minute stopgap is odd. Irrespective of party allegiance most reasonable people will regard Ahmed-Sheikh as a far superior choice for the country than Coburn.

And aside from the undoubted populist touch of Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage, we need to remember exactly what it is that his party stands for other than taking Britain out of Europe. As the First Minister commented last week: “Ukip’s plan would see tuition fees introduced at £9,000 a head for people in Scotland, free personal care for the elderly abolished, prescription charges reintroduced and the NHS privatised along the same lines as is taking place in England.” Hmm, I wonder if that is a price worth paying for a protest vote?

The days of Scotland needing to register protest votes are drawing to a close. Soon we will have the chance to ensure we never have to, ever again. And the problem with protest votes is that they rarely change the world for the better.

So, have a long hard think before deciding not to vote in the European election. The tone it will set for the culture of our public discourse could resonate for years to come.

And choose wisely and tactically to ensure that whatever their brief ascendancy south of the Border, we don’t let Ukip’s brand of politics get a foothold closer to home. There is very little we can do to stop the drift of politics to the right in the rest of the UK as the Tories are dragged by Ukip towards the politics of scapegoating, division, grievance and grudge.

We can do better, but only if we choose to. And it is our choices, after all, that make us.

It is time for this country to set its expectations sky high for both the conduct of its politics and the quality and conduct of those who seek to represent us. The higher the expectations, the higher the performance. Always. It is up to us. «

Twitter: @AndrewWilsonAJW

 

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