Intolerance versus independence and the rise of the Ultra British Nationalist

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  By G.A.Ponsonby

“It always rains in Scotland, there’s never any sunshine.”  It’s a common refrain when hearing people describe the weather north of the border.

It is of course false.  Scotland has its fair share of sunny days – just not as many as we’d like, and certainly not as many as those enjoyed by our southern neighbours.

Despite the similarities, anyone suggesting that England and Scotland shared the same weather patterns would be laughed at.  But that’s exactly the reasoning that is being applied to the Euro election, which saw UKIP secure its first Scottish MEP.

By no stretch of the imagination can a ten per cent share of the vote and fourth place in Scotland be compared with almost 28% south of the border and a clear first place.  But this is exactly what is being presented to Scottish voters by some in the Scottish media – if you didn’t know better you’d think UKIP had won in Scotland.

In the UK as a whole UKIP triumphed.  Nigel Farage’s inimitable brand of xenophobia was irresistible to many voters.  In Scotland UKIP achieved its first electoral success and now has one Scottish MEP.

The UKIP meat was poison to the poor Lib Dems.  The party is nearing extinction under Nick Clegg and now has only one MEP across the whole of the UK.  Compare Clegg to Salmond to see the real loser in this Euro election.

When I watched the results coming in on Sunday evening there was a weird thing happening on social media.  Some journalists and media commentators appeared to be celebrating the success of UKIP in Scotland.

It was quite bizarre and rather uncomfortable.  A party many would have argued was racist and intolerant, had achieved ten per cent of the Scottish vote and by the most slender of margins, had been rewarded with an MEP.

Instead of sober reflection and concern that a sizeable minority of Scots could be attracted to this party, many took the opportunity to gloat over the failure of the SNP to prevent the former Lib Dem seat falling into UKIP’s hands.  Indeed several used the result in order to attack the SNP’s independence campaign.

On Twitter, David Torrance opined: “The SNP won the Scottish Euro elections but real damage has been done to its #indyref narrative; my Scotsman analysis”

The ‘real damage’ according to Torrance was in the SNP’s claim that Scotland and England were essentially moving in different directions when it came to the issues of immigration and the EU.

Torrance wrote: “With Ukip late last night looking as though it was set to send an MEP to Europe … and around 10 per cent of the Scottish vote, presenting Ukip as an England-only phenomenon does not really stack up.”

Eager to present the result as some kind of barometer for the forthcoming referendum, he added: “It seems likely there’s been a referendum factor, with the Scottish turnout up by around 5 per cent on the last European elections in 2009, although overall it was still low.”

Support for UKIP in Scotland was one third that of the rest of the UK.  To suggest that this demonstrates Scotland is now being carried on the same anti-immigration tide as the rest of the UK, and there is no fundamental differences between the two, is wishful thinking.

As I said in the introduction to this article, Scotland has no more the same meteorological climate because we have some sunshine than we have the same political climate because we have some UKIP supporters.

But for me the untold story of this Euro election is the growing emergence of the Ultra-British Nationalist (UBN) in Scotland.  These UBN will embrace anything as long as it helps prevent Scottish independence and that includes racial and national intolerance.

Within moments of it emerging UKIP had secured its first Scottish MEP, some Scottish Unionists were tweeting their apparent glee at the prospect.

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser tweeted: “With @ScotTories vote UP, and UKIP on course to win a Scottish seat, where’s your ‘different countries’ now, @YesScotland? #indyref”.

What precisely was Fraser arguing?  That Scotland was just as intolerant than the rest of the UK?  That ‘Better Together’ really meant ‘No Foreigners Together’?

In a rather bizarre and confused tweet, Labour MP Anas Sarwar posted a message which read: “Thanks @scottishlabour activists. Our vote share up. ProUK parties 68% Indy 32%. No joy in UKIP – we must continue fight against nationalism”

The ProUK parties whose ‘success’ was being welcomed by Sarwar in the battle against independence included the racist BNP and Britain First.

Fraser’s and Sarwar’s ill-considered tweets revealed for me a phenomenon rarely commented upon, which is the emergence of the Ultra British Nationalist in Scottish politics.  It’s a side of the Better Together campaign the media would rather not highlight.

A xenophobic narrative has been cultivated by these British Nationalists in recent months.  Scottish Labour MPs are now routinely heard describing ‘foreigners’ in disparaging tones as they battle to prevent a Yes vote.  The ‘British Good – Foreign Bad’ narrative has played into the hands of UKIP and their ugly cousins.

UKIP is its ‘pint of bitter down the pub’ public face, but lurking in the shadows is the BNP, Britain First and the SDL – all three are Union Flag waving backers of NO, and all three openly racist.

It was these groups that the BBC and some other media outlets pandered to with their importing of the ‘immigration’ issue into the Scottish Euro elections.  According to the SNP, UKIP benefited from having four times as much broadcast time as themselves.

Whilst some of it was undoubtedly negative, it gave Farage’s circus an exposure that other parties, such as the Scottish Greens, were denied.  Only a fool, or someone with their own agenda, would deny that beaming UKIP inspired stories and issues into homes did not influence some voters.

Indeed so concerned was one politician about the lack of balance in the BBC’s coverage that he tweeted: “Will always be big supporter of BBC. But @BBCNews needs to have long, hard look at balance (or lack of) in its coverage over recent weeks.”

The politician?  Labour MP Andy Burnham.  I wonder if the Ultra Brits currently attacking Alex Salmond for making the same point will do the same to Burnham.

But what of Labour themselves?  Let’s not forget that on the eve of the Euro vote, the entire Scottish media ran with a Labour party stunt that witnessed Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil face a vote of No confidence – he won handsomely, but the story will have had impact.

That Scottish Labour spent their last day before the vote attacking the SNP and not UKIP is telling.

The Euro result has been portrayed by the media in Scotland as a success for UKIP and a defeat for the SNP.  A similar narrative followed the local council elections in 2012 – when the SNP received most of the votes but were portrayed by BBC Scotland as having lost.

It’s worth pointing out that the party which recorded the biggest share of the vote in this Euro election was not UKIP, but the SNP – 28.9%.

The so-called protest against the traditional parties, which has left the Lib Dems virtually extinct in a Euro sense and exposed the weaknesses in Ed Miliband’s Labour party, did not happen in Scotland – another fact that people like David Torrance conveniently ignore.

There are Unionists and some in the Scottish media who have been praying for some kind of breakthrough for UKIP in Scotland.  Their prayers have been answered.  UKIP has a Scottish MEP.

However the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’ might well be relevant here.

“We will inject a completely new dynamic into the referendum on Scottish separation.” said Nigel Farage in his victory speech.

The Ultra British Nationalists who were whooping and cheering the failure of the SNP to prevent UKIP gaining their first Scottish MEP may well have cause to regret UKIP’s recruitment into the ranks of the No campaign.

Scottish voters are about to get a glimpse of what awaits should they vote No on September 18th.