By Sean Martin
The second televised European Union debate between Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and UKIP leader Nigel Farage simply exhibits the separate political environment in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, the SNP has said.
Clegg and Farage debated the issue of EU membership for a second time on Wednesday night, prompting demands from the SNP as to why the Prime Minister continually refuses to meet Scotland’s First Minister under similar stipulations.
An official YouGov poll of the BBC-televised debate showed Farage won over 68% of their audience, once again comfortably defeating Clegg, who polled just 27%. In the last meeting between the two, also shown on the BBC, the UKIP leader managed 57% to Clegg’s 36%.
The YouGov results demonstrate the increasing influence of UKIP south of the border, where a recent opinion poll conducted by ComRes found that the right-wing party are set to win 30% of the vote, the largest share, in the upcoming European Parliament elections.
The SNP has pointed out that this is almost exactly the opposite of the party’s fortunes in Scotland, where it has yet to even save its deposit in either a Westminster or Scottish Parliament election or by-election and also has no councillors. They contend that growing UKIP influence has shifted the UK’s main parties increasingly to the right, thus undermining Westminster’s ability to represent Scotland at European level.
MSP for North East Scotland, Christian Allard, said UKIP’s relative popularity in the rest of the UK in comparison to Scotland simply characterises the separate and distinct political paths taken by Scotland and Westminster. This is something reflected in the 41% of people polled in an ICM Research survey into voters’ intentions who said they would vote for the SNP in the European Parliament elections on 22 May.
“While UKIP are topping the polls south of the border, north of the border they are barely functioning as a party,” said Allard. “There is no hiding from the fact that the No parties are dancing to UKIP’s tune – first we face threats of a referendum to rip us out of the EU, and now the Deputy Prime Minister debates Nigel Farage for the second time in a fortnight.
“The irony, of course, is that the Lib Dems, Labour and the Tories are united with the Europhobic UKIP in all supporting a No vote in Scotland’s referendum – when it comes to Scotland, UKIP and the Westminster parties stand shoulder to shoulder.”
Mr Allard also said that the Prime Minister has essentially told Scotland he has no time for them by not facing Salmond in a televised face-off at a time when his deputy has “so much time to waste” debating with Farage.
“A majority of people across Scotland want to see a debate between the First Minister and the Prime Minister ahead of the referendum,” Allard added. “They will no doubt be wondering why the Deputy Prime Minister has so much time to waste on Nigel Farage when the Prime Minister has no time for Scotland.”