RECRIMINATIONS flew last night as Holyrood parties sought to point the finger of blame for allowing Ukip to win a European Parliament seat and represent Scotland in Brussels.
The row followed formal confirmation yesterday that the right-wing party had won the last of the six seats north of the Border.
The dramatic events of Sunday night and early yesterday morning saw Ukip top the polls in the UK and take 24 seats. The result also marked the first time the Conservatives or Labour had failed to win a national election in 100 years.
Ukip’s David Coburn MEP will serve for five years as one of Scotland’s representatives in Europe.
He said that Scots were “fed-up” with the main parties and added: “I’d like to thank Alex Salmond for his tremendous help in getting us elected.”
Ukip leader Nigel Farage celebrated what he described as “the most extraordinary result” in British politics over the past century with his now customary pint of beer, and claimed Ukip had become a national force.
He has immediately turned the party’s focus to Westminster, with campaigning switching to next week’s Newark by-election.
Beyond that, he says Ukip will target a dozen seats at next year’s General Election.
“The three party leaders are like goldfish that have been tipped out of their bowl on to the floor and are gasping for air,” said Mr Farage, who promised that Ukip would deliver an in-out referendum on Europe if the party was to hold the balance of power after next year’s election.
Last night, an ill-tempered debate raged over how Ukip came to win the final seat in Scotland.
Labour claimed the SNP was to blame for bringing nationalism into the political debate in the run-up to September’s referendum. The Conservatives said Alex Salmond had paved the way for a Ukip win by alienating voters and normalising a “populist style” favoured by Mr Farage.
In response, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed a claim from Mr Salmond that “wall-to-wall” media coverage of Ukip south of the Border being “beamed into Scotland” had helped the party’s campaign in Scotland.
Televised debates with Nick Clegg, which Mr Farage is widely credited as having won, also presented a significant platform for a small party, the SNP leadership said.
Ukip picked up 10.4 per cent of the vote in Scotland, taking the seat the SNP hoped to win in the last nationwide test of opinion before the independence referendum on 18 September.
Ms Sturgeon insisted that Ukip’s win was “significantly different” to their electoral success south of the Border, as the party finished top in for UK as a whole with 27.5 per cent of the vote, but fourth in Scotland.
But Labour hit back as the party claimed Ukip’s triumph in Scotland was a reaction to Mr Salmond attempting to force Scots to chose “between two extremes” and his promotion of nationalism in the referendum campaign.
Ukip took the sole seat held by the Lib Dems in Scotland, who polled just 95,319 votes or 7.1 per cent while being beaten to sixth place behind the Greens.
The complicated proportional voting system meant that the SNP had to extend its share of the vote beyond one-third of the total in Scotland if it had any chance of keeping Ukip out.
Although the SNP topped the poll in the Western Isles, which was the last authority to declare yesterday, the overall Nationalist vote fell just short at 389,503 – a 28.9 per cent share that saw the party retain its two MEPs.
Ms Sturgeon, speaking after Mr Coburn’s win was declared yesterday, said: “We are very proud of the campaign we have fought. Ukip has come fourth in Scotland and its performance in Scotland is significantly different to its performance in the UK.
“Alex Salmond pointed out that Ukip got disproportionate coverage in terms of the scale of the coverage they got in Scotland.”
Labour saw its vote increase by five points to 25.9 per cent with 348,219 votes, keeping its two Scottish MEPs, while the Conservatives held on to their single seat with 231,330 votes or 17.2 per cent.
Labour MEP David Martin said Mr Salmond’s independence campaign had led to the rise of Ukip and anti-EU nationalism in Scotland.
Mr Martin said: “I’d like to suggest to David Coburn that the first thing he does when he sits down and recovers from the champagne is write a letter to Alex Salmond because there is no doubt in my mind that Alex Salmond’s decision to polarise the campaign, the Scottish debate, is why David Coburn is with us today as a member of the European Parliament.”
Mr Martin, who was re-elected as an MEP along with Labour’s Catherine Stihler, said: “We knew before we set out on this campaign that many people up and down the country are suffering real hardship under the present policies.
“Catherine and I are determined to use the platform that Scottish people have given us in the European Parliament to continue to campaign for Scottish jobs, to continue to campaign for social justice, to continue to work for fairness at work, and we’re committed to work hard for all the people of Scotland.”
Ian Hudghton MEP, was who re-elected for the SNP along with Alyn Smith, stressed that the Nationalists won overall in Scotland, despite the failure of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh to take the third seat for the party.
Mr Hudghton suggested that the SNP topping the poll was a boost for the campaign for independence.
He said: “We also have the opportunity in September to ensure that we transform our experience as members of the European Parliament, and as a country in the European Union, by voting Yes and becoming a normal, independent member state with the right to representation as a nation, as a government, as well.”
However, an analysis of the European votes suggests the pro-independence parties – SNP and Green – secured about 37 per cent of the vote on a low turnout across Scotland.
The Green Party had also hoped to pick up its first Euro seat for Edinburgh councillor Maggie Chapman and block Ukip, but ended with 108,305 of the vote or 8 per cent.
Turnout in Scotland was just 33.5 per cent – an improvement on 2009 when only about 28.5 per cent of the electorate voted.
Tory MEP Ian Duncan, who takes over from the retiring Struan Stevenson, said his party’s vote was the highest it had been for 25 years for Scotland in a European Parliament election.
He said: “We’ve bucked the national trend and it is a reminder that we have much to offer the people of Scotland.”
Tory MSP Alex Johnstone suggested there were similarities between the campaigning styles of Mr Salmond and Mr Farage as he called on the SNP leader to “accept responsibility” for Ukip’s win.
He said: “The rise of Ukip is a definite reaction against Alex Salmond’s polarising and confrontational style throughout this referendum. Alex Salmond has to accept responsibilty because of his conduct over a long period of time.
“There are actually a number of similarities between Mr Salmond and Mr Farage in terms of their publicity-seeking and populist styles.”