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Coffee House

How a Ukip victory could hasten the break-up of the UK

19 May 2014

11:48 AM

19 May 2014

11:48 AM

In a sense it could be the political version of the law of unintended consequences. There is Nigel Farage insisting that he is a British unionist, that he opposes Scottish nationalism and does not want to see Scottish independence. Yet success for Farage and Ukip in the Euro elections this week could possibly do more to hasten the break-up of the UK than almost anything else.

That is the implication of a startling new poll published in the Scotsman this morning. ICM found that almost one in five Scots were more likely to vote Yes in the independence referendum if Ukip does well this week.

A total of three in five of those asked said Ukip success would make no difference to their choice in the independence referendum and 14 per cent said they did not know. A total of eight per cent said it would make them more likely to vote No but 18 per cent said it would make them more likely to vote Yes.

This finding has to be taken alongside another key part of the poll which found that support for Ukip in Scotland is languishing at nine per cent, not enough to secure a single Euro seat north of the border.

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So, as things stand Ukip is poised for dramatic success all over England but is heading for a big fat zero in Scotland.

If that is indeed the result of this week’s elections, then it will create a very stark contrast between Scotland and England. England will appear increasingly Eurosceptic while Scotland will seem much more Eurofriendly.

Just for a second, imagine how this looks from north of the border. To many Scots, such a result will make it look as it England is going one way – anti-European, anti-immigration, edging towards xenophobia and embracing a little-Englander mentality – while Scotland remains largely pro-European, pro-immigration and (and this is the crucial point) essentially different.

There is, obviously, much more to it than that. That is just an over-simplified stereotype. For instance, there are many Scots who are sceptical about the European Union but this is simply about the impression that success for Ukip in England will create in Scotland. It will increase the sense felt by many north of the border that Scotland is different, that it doesn’t share the same worries and anxieties as England.

Most importantly, though, it will also heighten the feeling that Ukip is not a British party at all, but an English nationalist movement which has little or no appeal in Scotland.

That is why one in five Scots will be more likely to vote Yes in September, not because they are necessarily more pro-European, but because they will feel a growing sense of separation between Scotland and England. Alex Salmond may not like Farage and his policies but it is unlikely that he will be doing anything other than rubbing his hands with glee this week as he prepares for the European elections this week.

Not only is the SNP poised to win half of all the seats in Scotland but, if Ukip fails to win any, it will play into the ‘we are different’ agenda he has been pushing for so long.

So all those planning to vote Ukip this week should perhaps be aware that, as well as voting for the UK to leave the EU, they may also be hastening the break-up of Britain – whether they want to or not.

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