Where now for eurosceptics in Scotland?

Where now for eurosceptics in Scotland?

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Saturday 9, May, 2015

UKIP’s MANIFESTO LAUNCH in Scotland never really left the launchpad, largely I suspect because there was never fuel in the tank to begin with.  There really was no manifesto and I doubt there ever will be, rather like a cheque from a dodgy salesman that’s still stuck in the post.  Not that that stopped other parties simply launching manifestoes online which saved countless conifers in Sweden to be used for better things, like stripped pine peacenik saunas perhaps.

Who knows what Swedes in saunas think about but I doubt it’s how UKIP performed this week after an incredible victory last year in the EU elections.  Their campaign will be remembered not for causing a bang in Scottish politics but for ending with a whimper.

There was never any sense or suggestion the party would take advantage of 2014’s victory to push the Eurosceptic agenda in Scotland.  If anything it has set it back substantially with farce following tragedy with the expulsion of previous key members preceding an avalanche of gaffes by MEP David Coburn and his taxpayer-funded staff.

Sectarianism has been adopted cynically in an attempt to reach out to the most gullible and disaffected 6 per cent of voters to bag a few seats next year in Holyrood; not only will this effort fail but it has shut out 60 per cent of voters who would not at the moment leave the EU in Scotland and need to be persuaded to change.  This alone completely negates UKIP’s stated mission of leaving the EU.  

Instead of challenging the SNP and Labour on Scotland’s relationship with Europe we now associate UKIP with the image of Holyrood full of pink politicians all wrapped in a Celtic top like an oversized malignant Tangle Twister.

The party had no office in Scotland for months after May 2014, hasn’t had a single advertised surgery for voters though maybe the fact it doesn’t have its own website may be to blame for this, who knows?   As part of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the European Parliament I vouch from experience there is neither freedom nor democracy in UKIP’s Scottish region and hasn’t been for nearly two years.

Whether this is due to general disinterest in Scotland by UKIP or more the machinations of a small group within the party is a matter of conjecture at the end of the day but saddening none the less, given how vibrant, open and positive the party is in England.  

Grassroots organisation, though a little sloppy, is very real throughout UKIP and it has worked hard to become the second party in many English seats.  Nigel Farage has been an inspiration to me as have many other MEPs in UKIP who have enriched the debate and challenged the status quo like few others in the last hundred years.

That said, I’m happy to have rejoined the Conservatives in Scotland; Ruth Davidson shone during the Indyref and is a real believer and a fighter, and led a very positive campaign.  The Tories are the only party that can deliver a referendum and more importantly be in a position to fight for an exit from the EU.  

Whether it was UKIP’s candidate launch weeks back or the manifesto non-launch this last week the degree of disorganisation and the continuous oozing of bile towards political opponents means the party in Scotland offers nothing positive in the fight to leave Brussels. UKIP in Scotland will likely continue to draw negative associations with euroscepticism, despite the work of many good people in the party. 

The question now is how do we appeal to 60 per cent of the undecided and pro-EU voters in Scotland rather than the 6 per cent needed for a Holyrood seat?  We have to face the fact that the most Eurosceptic areas of Scotland are those where both the SNP and the Tories are traditionally strongest.  With a myriad of parties in the offing for the elections 2016 there is a dearth of non-party campaign groups arguing against the EU in Scotland.

The nationalists have never had a Maastricht moment, where the political nature of the EU is seen as fundamentally different to the Common Market we joined.  The SNP has used Europe as a crutch in its fight to leave the UK, given it lacks the confidence for Scotland to truly go global.  That’s why I have spent my post-UKIP days working with other right minded Eurosceptics from both unionist backgrounds and those who favour a genuinely independent Scotland. 

The result is a campaign group called Prospect, a pro-Scotland and Eurosceptic libertarian group that sees Brexit as the only way of restoring freedom and the primacy of Scots Law to Scotland.  It makes sense for both nationalists and unionists for the UK to leave the EU, only then can we have an honest debate about how Scotland and indeed the UK as a whole can thrive in the world.

Part of Prospect’s mission will be to make sure the next referendum in Scotland will be positive and more open than the last.  After this very partisan General Election I am looking forward to working with Scots of all allegiances in common cause to win our country back.  

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