FEW would accuse Ukip leader Nigel Farage of lacking confidence.
He is a politician blessed with colossal self-assurance. But even the Eurosceptic MEP is kidding himself if he believes that Scotland will provide the momentum for his campaign to persuade the UK to leave the European Union.
As we report, today, Farage predicts he can convince Scots that quitting the EU makes sense. We doubt very much indeed that Farage is the man to achieve such an outcome.
There is a myth that Scots are considerably more pro-Europe than those in other parts of the United Kingdom. The reality is that opinion is broadly similar, north and south of the Border. But what is crystal clear is that Farage is not popular with Scots.
There was, of course, the incident in 2013, when Farage was hounded off the streets by a mob of protesters. But that unfortunate confrontation – indefensible in a democracy – is not the only evidence that Farage has failed to connect with Scots. Polls show that he is unpopular and that Ukip enjoys the support of relatively few voters in Scotland.
Ukip did receive a boost in Scotland last year when the party returned a member of the European Parliament. David Coburn’s election was a surprise to many but since taking up his post he has failed to make much impact, other than as a controversialist. It would be a mistake for Farage to regard Coburn’s election as evidence of growing support for his party. If anything, Farage would be more likely to turn Scots away from voting in favour of Britain exiting the EU.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s promised referendum on EU membership may have huge ramifications for Scotland and its place in the United Kingdom.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that circumstances in which a majority of Scots voted to stay in the EU while a majority across the UK decided to leave would be a potential trigger for a second independence referendum. In making this suggestion, Sturgeon takes a great deal for granted. We do not know yet whether Scots, when faced with the choice, might decide EU membership was no longer desirable.
Polls show that Scots are not as liberal as the First Minister might have us believe when it comes to matters of immigration. It may yet come to pass that a majority of Scots decide that they do not want Europe’s open borders.
It would be reckless to make assumptions at this stage about how Scotland might vote on the matter of EU membership. Euroscepticism is not solely the preserve of the political right, and there might yet be made compelling left-wing arguments for departure.
The implications for Scotland of the EU referendum result are both complex and potentially serious. We hope that the debate is appropriately thoughtful and temperate in tone.
Farage’s arguments against Europe are too often concerned with “the other”, his party obsessed with immigration rather than the economic benefits or otherwise of the UK’s relationships with its European neighbours.
We don’t believe the Ukip leader’s fondness for scaremongering will add any value to what will be an important decision-making process. Our view is supported by polling which shows Scots fear Farage will bring prejudice into the debate, and that his party is dangerous and divisive.
The problem, of course, for those who wish to present a more reasoned argument in favour of leaving the EU is that Farage is such a dominant, high-profile figure that he will – inevitably – make his mark on the way the debate is conducted.
But if Scots do wish to come out of the European Union, we do not believe it will be for the reasons Nigel Farage will espouse.
His style of politics remains, we are pleased to say, on the fringes in Scotland.
Back science, not hunches about homeopathy
THOSE who believe in the power of homeopathy are often especially outspoken. Its champions argue that – although there is no scientific evidence to support their assertion – it can alleviate and cure serious conditions. The British Medical Association in Scotland is justly concerned that almost £2 million is being spent on homeopathy by health boards each year.
We sympathise with those who are convinced that these treatments work but theirs is a belief that is simply too expensive to support.
While there is no scientific evidence that homeopathy works, there is considerable evidence that conventional medicines do.
Much of the expenditure on homeopathy supported the running of the Centre for Integrative Care, the only facility of its kind in Scotland, which forms part of Gartnavel hospital in Glasgow.
The argument for removing that funding seems compelling. Scotland’s health service – like all public services – is under pressure. There can be no defence, in these circumstances, for spending money on treatments that have no basis in science.
Dr Peter Bennie, chair of BMA Scotland, says there should be no further NHS funding for homeopathy. Limited and scarce NHS resources, he says, should only be used to support medicine and treatments that have been shown to be effective.”
In the circumstances, it is hard not to agree with the BMA position. Conventional medicine saves lives every day, and progress in the field of medical research means that illnesses which might once have been terminal can be cured.
Such resources as do exist should be diverted to these treatments. We should place our faith in science, with all of its rigorous testing, rather than in treatments supported by faith rather than evidence.
Homeopathy’s supporters are well-intentioned, and their belief in the efficacy of alternative therapies is, doubtless, sincere.
But the time has come to bring public funding of these treatments to an end.
The £1.8m spent on homeopathy should be diverted to pay for drugs that are proven to work. Scotland can no longer afford to indulge those who see homeopathy as a serious science.