Sometimes it is hard to know whether some of Ukip’s candidates in the European parliamentary elections have genuinely distasteful views or are just plain daft. According to David Coburn, Ukip’s lead candidate in Scotland, Alex Salmond was guilty of a “sectarian” stunt for visiting a mosque on the election trail.
Eh? By any standard of logic, even a warped one, the comment doesn’t make any sense. To be sectarian, one would, at the very least, refuse to visit places of worship associated with one particular faith while happily visiting others. Mr Salmond can be accused of many things, but that is certainly not one of them. Indeed, in this case, as Scotland’s First Minister, he was surely trying his utmost to be non-sectarian.
In an attempt to explain himself, Mr Coburn said that if he had visited a Roman Catholic cathedral, he would have been accused of playing the religious card. Eh, again? We are completely unable to imagine any connection between Roman Catholics and Ukip’s principal policies of being anti-immigration or being against British membership of the EU.
Some, we concede, may think there is a sinister link between the EU’s founding Treaty of Rome and the fact that the RC Church has its seat of temporal governance in Rome. But such people, we also reckon, are given to wearing tinfoil hats.
So it is tempting to dismiss Mr Coburn’s remarks as mere nuttiness. But it is becoming more obvious by the day that there are just too many outbursts by too many Ukip people for the party to be regarded as just harbouring a few cranks, like any political outfit. The candidate who said that comedian Lenny Henry should go back to a “black country”, the Scottish official who said that Glasgow City Council was for “lesbians, gays [and] communists”, the councillor who blamed flooding on gay marriage … the list goes on and on.
True, some of these people have been kicked out of Ukip. But there’s the leader himself, Nigel Farage, on the radio and saying some pretty unpleasant things about Romanians, as though to be Romanian is to be a criminal. And when asked to apologise for this absurd stereotyping, he refuses to do so on air, and only does so many hours later.
One straw in the wind does not make a solid case for there being a nearby haystack, but when it becomes a blizzard of straws, it is fair to assume that the haystack is near and in a state of collapse. But Ukip, quite extraordinarily, despite all the evidence that it harbours rather a lot of intolerant and racist people, is not at all about to fold in on itself.
Moreover, it is not impossible that by next week Mr Coburn will be an MEP representing Scotland. Voters will have the democratic choice of accepting or rejecting such opinions at the ballot box on Thursday. Mr Coburn could do himself and his party a favour by withdrawing his remark in advance of the election.
Needless delay - now get on with it
WHY has it taken three years for a learned committee to conclude that the radiation particles which have long been known to exist on the beach at Dalgety Bay in Fife pose a risk to public health and that action to clean it up should be taken as soon as possible?
It is not as though Dalgety Bay is remote and rarely visited. It is right next to a township of several thousand people and hundreds of children, whose parents constantly worry that they are at risk. Children being children, temptations to ignore instructions and go play on the beach will always exist. That radioactive particles coming off Second World War aircraft instruments dumped offshore were being washed onshore has long been known.
The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment believes that these are unconnected with cancer rates in nearby communities. But it believes they are a risk to health. It surely cannot have taken three years to reach that conclusion – testing a sample of the particles, which are described as “high activity”, ought to have produced the necessary evidence a lot quicker than that.
The committee says that it has not been able to determine the magnitude of the contamination or how long the natural decay of radioactive elements might take for the danger to disappear of its own accord. But the suggestion that an offshore barrier should be constructed implies that it thinks the risk may be pretty substantial.
At least the clean-up is now demanded. It will be difficult, laborious and costly. But what the people of Dalgety Bay do not need is any dispute between the Scottish and UK governments over who should pay for it.