Nigel Farage accused of hijacking Scots elections

Nigel Farage was dismissed as an irrelevance in Scotland by the SNP. Picture: Getty
Nigel Farage was dismissed as an irrelevance in Scotland by the SNP. Picture: Getty
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UKIP leader Nigel Farage has backed holding the European Union referendum at the same time as the Holyrood election next year.

The comments came as Mr Farage hoped to kickstart the No to staying in the EU campaign, calling on those who want a so called Brexit (British exit) to “get off their backsides” and “stop moaning” about the Yes side.

Over the weekend it emerged that Prime Minister David Cameron wants to hold the in/out referendum in June next year, having already been thwarted on holding it on the same day in May as the Holyrood, Welsh Assembly and English council elections.

The SNP have already warned that a June date would still clash with the Holyrood election and be “discourteous” and potentially cause confusion.

However, in an online interview, Mr Farage said he backed the idea and made it clear he hoped his party could use a dual campaign to get a foothold in the devolved parliaments.

He said: “If the referendum was to take place in April or was to take place in June, it is likely that in fact those issues and those questions may well actually dominate the Welsh Assembly campaign, so I’m not nervous or frightened of that in any way at all.”

He insisted that his party is able to fight both campaigns at once.

He said: “We’ll be doing that for the Scottish Parliament and we’ll be doing it for the London Assembly and we’ll be doing it in Northern Ireland as well. Ukip is a genuinely United Kingdom Independence Party – you know, we’ve got representation in all four corners.”

He also made it clear that he would use Alex Salmond’s efforts in the independence referendum as an inspiration for the campaign to leave the EU.

He said: “The one thing I think Alex Salmond got brilliantly right is he managed to engender the sense of optimism. He managed to get a feeling of perhaps – I mean, the economics were pretty rusty – of what Scottish identity was all about.

“And he did go up and down the country holding public meetings, walking down the streets doing selfies and meeting people, and he did actually give Scottish people the opportunity to meet him, his colleagues and get engaged.

“So, to some extent, yes, there was much – forgetting the policy – there was much of that campaign that Salmond got right and we can learn from that.”

The Ukip leader’s backing for holding the referendum alongside the Holyrood election was dismissed by the SNP.

An SNP spokesman said: “Attempting to hijack the Scottish and Welsh elections with the EU referendum was already tried by the Tories, but they were forced into the now familiar red-faced U-turn on the proposals – one of four since the general election in May.

“Nigel Farage is free to make any wishes he pleases, it’s still not going to happen – he’s a complete irrelevance in ­Scotland.”

In a speech in Westminster, Mr Farage also hit out at eurosceptics in other parties for falling silent while David Cameron works on renegotiation of Britain’s membership before spearheading the Yes campaign.

The Ukip leader said the party was “not interested” in the Prime Minister’s “technical renegotiation”, which he said failed to address public concerns about the free movement of people, sovereignty and the cost of EU membership.