Ailsa Henderson

Why Ukip matters in the Scottish independence referendum

There is now a significant chance that Ukip will top the European election poll in England. But while Ukip are also on course to win an MEP in Wales, if the results of new polling are borne out on 22 May, they would likely not win an MEP in Scotland. Such a result would highlight the political differences between the nations of Britain. The strength of Ukip’s popular support in England draws on something which even they appear not to have fully recognised: the extent to which the party has become the champion of an increasingly politicized sense of English identity.

The Ukip surge that appears in England – where almost one third of voters are intending to back the party in the 22 May elections – is largely absent in Scotland, where only the Liberal Democrats are likely to fare worse.  A new study by academics at Edinburgh and Cardiff universities and the think tank IPPR shows that Scots stand out.

One in ten Scottish voters are likely to back Ukip, almost the same figure as are willing to back the Conservatives.  By comparison, almost two thirds of the electorate are planning to cast a ballot for either SNP or Labour.  This represents an increase for both of the two main parties, who earned 29 per cent and 21 per cent respectively in the 2009 European elections.

The gain appears to be at the expense of the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. If one were of a mind to consider this a mid-term referendum on the UK government, then neither coalition party comes out of it very well in Scotland, with both down on their performance in the 2010 UK general election.

European Election Voting Intentions, April 2014 (%)

Party
England
Wales
Scotland
Labour
30
39
31
Conservative
22
18
12
Liberal Democrats
11
7
7
Plaid Cymru/SNP
11
33
UKIP
29
20
10
Other
8
6
6
N of respondents
2846
793
782

These results likely reflect variations across Britain in the parties perceived to best stand up for particular regions.

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