Coffee House

Why Ukip matters in the Scottish independence referendum

29 April 2014

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 (%)

Liberal Democrats
Plaid Cymru/SNP
N of respondents

These results likely reflect variations across Britain in the parties perceived to best stand up for particular regions. In England, almost one quarter (23 per cent) of voters felt that Ukip ‘best stands up for the interests of England’. Labour and the Conservatives followed on 17 and 16 per cent respectively.  In Scotland, however, only 0.8 per cent of voters think that Ukip ‘best stands up for the interests of Scotland’, while Labour and the Conservatives earn 17 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.  By far the greatest support is for the SNP, with almost half of all voters (45 per cent) believing it best stands up for Scotland.  UKIP is clearly playing a role as a defender of the national interest that in Scotland is fulfilled by the SNP.

How does this relate to attitudes to the European Union? Scots are less Eurosceptic than other parts of the UK, more likely to think EU membership is a good thing, and less likely to vote that the UK should leave the EU.

In Scotland, one fifth of voters still don’t know how they would in an EU referendum, a figure double that of ‘don’t knows’ in the independence referendum. Of those who do know, almost 60 per cent would vote to stay in the European Union. In England, by contrast, 45 per cent would vote to stay. In England this relates to national identity, with those who feel British only or more British than English twice as supportive of staying in the EU as those who prioritise their sense of Englishness.

EU Referendum Vote by National Identity in Scotland (%)

Scottish only/more Scottish than British Equally Scottish & British British only/More British than Scottish
Wouldn’t Vote/Don’t Know
N of respondents

In Scotland we see much smaller differences across identity categories. Just over half (50 per cent) and just under half (48 per cent) are likely to vote to stay in the EU regardless of whether they prioritise Scottishness or Britishness. It is therefore not just that Scots as a whole are more supportive of the EU, but that the relationship between national identity and Europe works differently in Scotland than in England.

These differences in outlook between England and Scotland could have an impact on the Scottish independence referendum in September. A strong performance by Ukip in May’s European elections might encourage Scots into the Yes camp if they read it as a signal that England may vote to leave the EU in a future in-out referendum on Europe. For this to happen, though, Scots would need to care more about EU membership than UK membership, and it is not clear that many of them do. Perhaps more likely is that Scots will look to the English electorate on 23 May and see them backing not one party with minimal support in Scotland but two and might well question whether they are part of the shared community of interests.

Professor Ailsa Henderson is Head of Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh

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  • Kennybhoy

    Scottish referendum post usually attract far more post and far more sound and fury than this…?


    • terregles2

      Could be that is because many YES Scottish supporters view the choice of UKIP by the English electorate as entirely up to the English people.
      Those of us who wish more more democracy for Scotland are hardly going to complain about England choosing what party they think is in their best interests.

  • Jeanne Tomlin

    You rather miss the point that Scots are likely to believe this signals that Ukip may do well in the next GE. If there is one scenario that gives most Scots nightmares, it is the possibility of a Tory/Ukip coalition. This is what is highly likely to increase the Yes vote rather than the issue of the EU which Scots are relatively relaxed about either way.

  • mightymark

    What an irony if Scotland the most enthusiastic part of the UK for the EU, should vote for independence only to be denied entry – as seems at least possible – while the rest of UK, perhaps grudgingly, stays in!

    • uglyfatbloke

      Not any real prospect of Scotland being ‘denied entry’…for one thing it’s already in the EU. It took six years or more for Greenland to get out of the EU when they actually wanted to leave. Excluding Scotland will require the agreement of all the EU countries, which might be a bit hard to achieve. Whether EU membership is actually good or bad for Scotland is a very different question of course. UKIP might get a seat in Scotland but realistically it’s less than likely. Have a look at the Scottish candidates to see why.
      EU poll turnout is generally low – and lower in Scotland because there won’t be local government elections at the same time – so opinion polls may be a bit misleading. The collapse of the Scottish lib-dems has probably been more marked in Scotland but lib-dem voters are, as a rule, more EU-friendly than others and more likely to turn out for European elections so they may hang on to their Scottish seat. Overall a result of 3 gnats, 2 Labour and one tory is probably the most likely outcome.

  • abystander

    UKIP replacing a Tory MEP in Scotland will be great news for us independentistas.

    We will suggest to the undecided that Unionism is basically racist.

    • Kennybhoy

      “We “…?

    • Phil Horey

      what total b*ll*cks!

  • Man in a Shed

    Aren’t UKIP on course to knock out the Tories in Scotland. And that’s just the start there a rich vein of Unionism looking for a champion

    PS the speccie ‘s choice of picture here rewards the anti democratic left wing thugs who tried to attack Scottish peoples democratic rights on the Royal Mile. Shame on you.

  • Tony_E

    I’m quite surprised, that on a day when the the mainstream parties have opened a campaign against UKIP, based purely on an attack of ‘Racism’ – that Coffee House writers have not even seen fit to raise this.

    It suggests though, that at least someone realises that it damages the campaigners more than the target of the abuse. Having never voted UKIP before, hearing the assorted voices on 5 Live, denouncing UKIP as racist, I am more inclined than ever to give these idiots a bloody nose and vote Farage!

  • CharlietheChump

    The scots love their freebies usually delivered by sucking on the socialist teats of Salmond and the EU.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Oh dear more half-cocked analysis.

    These differences in outlook between England and Scotland could have an
    impact on the Scottish independence referendum in September. A strong
    performance by Ukip in May’s European elections might encourage Scots
    into the Yes camp if they read it as a signal that England may vote to
    leave the EU in a future in-out referendum on Europe.

    Does anyone seriously believe the Scots do not already realise there is a serious difference between Scotland and England over such issues? Its almost 20 years since the most Eurosceptic “English” party (as was), the Tories, were crushed in Scotland. That English (Eurosceptic) voters are deserting the Tories for UKIP as it becomes clear the Tories no longer represent such values that have in the meantime been adopted by UKIP should be an irrelevance to Scots. The ‘English Eurosceptic affect alluded to surely must already be included in Scots calculations given they rejected 20 years ago the party that first represented such values.

    That support for UKIP seems to have doubled since 2009 suggests that Scottish Eurosceptics are in fact now moving towards UKIP having realised the Tories are as Europhiliac as the other main Scots parties.That the whole question of EU membership is now one of the contentious issues of the Independence debate might well also have helped to swell UKIPs Scottish ranks as it may well have highlighted the contradiction in the SNP’s vision that sees them seeking freedom from Westmiinster whilst wanting to prostrate themselves at the alter of ever closer union in Brussels.

  • GUBU

    So, to summarize: somebody might do something if something happens, although there is no evidence to suggest that they will do that something if that other something happens. In which case, they might do something else.

    Well, that’s certainly cleared that up…

  • asalord

    Great to have ukip, who say they love the “united” kingdom, doing most to bring about its demise.

    • Inverted Meniscus

      You are not actually interested in an independent Scotland are you. You just want to destroy the UK in the hope that it will somehow ‘harm’ the English. You sad little man.

      • Kennybhoy

        You’re just working this out? lol :-)

      • terregles2

        Why would the dissolution of the UK harm England. After independence Scotland and EWNI will both go forward and prosper. The only difference will be that both countries will be more democratic.

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Fine, as long as the citizens of the EWNI are not presented with the bill for Scottish independence. The transition costs must be entirely for the Scottish electorate. We will not be joining a Currency Union either. That means that borrowing costs in Scotland, your mortgage etc, will inevitably rise but you will be independent. Did Salmond tell you that increased borrowing costs would be the consequence of not having a currency union with EWNI? Thought not.

          • terregles2

            I think you should try and keep a cool head and really find out a bit more about the issues you have raised rather than parroting the MSM tabloid speak.

            • Inverted Meniscus

              A pathetic and condescending response. I am perfectly capable of forming my own opinion. There will be enormous costs to separation and I object to EWNI taxpayers paying for any of them when we did not get a say in the matter. I do not want a currency union whereby those same taxpayers are required to underwrite the debt of a foreign country in order to keep debt costs in that foreign country below the level that they would be if that foreign country were to borrow money on its own account. We do not offer such guarantees to Somalia, Hungary or Holland so why should we offer it to a foreign country that just happens to abutt our own country. That is my opinion and it is perfectly valid. Become a foreign country and independent but pay for it yourselves and don’t expect us to foot any of the bill.

  • Robert_Eve

    Scotland is socialist – the EU is a socialist construct.


    • Tony_E

      The EU is not socialist, it is corporatist and imperialist.

      The corporations collude through the lobbying system to make it very difficult for new entrants to climb over the ever increasing hurdles of regulation and provide competition. The EU also tries to draw more and more power to the centre using both the courts and the commission/legislature route to undermine national governments.

      The socialist elements in social policy are there, but it’s reason for existence is to create a single state, not for that state to own the means of production. It seeks to remove competition between the states as a method of drawing power to the centre.

      • Andy

        The EU is a Fascist construct, hence the ‘corporatist’ and Socialist elements. It is anti-liberal and strongly totalitarian. Eventually it will lead to War.

        • Bob Waugh

          No it is not. There are many things that are wrong about the EU, but fantastical statements like that contribute nothing to the intelligent debate about the future of our continent that needs to happen..

          • Andy

            It is not a ‘fantastical statement’, I wish it were. The EU is exactly what I describe it to be – a Fascist construct that is destroying democracy all across Europe. It has caused huge poverty in Greece, Spain etc and seems incapable of seeing how its policies and actions have impacted upon the peoples of Europe. And where the people have been consulted, which is seldom, if they dare to question the prevailing vogue they are made to vote again until they give the desired answer. By seeking to always ‘impose’ its will the EU is sowing the seeds of its own destruction which will probably be by a bloody War.

            • Bob Waugh

              Words matter. If the EU is “fascist”, then so is the USA. (Ask a Latin American.) In fact neither of them are such; what they are are models of capitalism.
              The USA is mainly dominated by the “free-market” ideology that has become hegemonic among those who aspire to join the British political elite.
              The EU is a different model which was originally based on the need to reconstruct a continent ravaged by war. It was composed of democratic governments pursuing forms of “social partnership” between capital and labour. Capital was given an expanded market to give it the opportunity to create wealth; labour was given an increased share in that wealth and also the social role that fascism (and pre-war capitalism) denied it. So it was a democratic set-up.
              It is the single currency fiasco that has unbalanced that deal – social security (in the widest sense) is now threatened by the single golf club strategy of defending this project at all costs. Developing an alternative is the key task for democrats across the continent. You might acre to note that the real fascists, such as the FN in France and Golden Dawn in Greece – are opposed to the EU in principle.

              • Andy

                What a load of twaddle. The whole point of the EEC was to ‘tie’ Germany down, so that it made War between France and Germany impossible. That was helped by the US Army and the British Army on the Rhine. It is actually an old fashioned Customs Union and is highly protectionist. If you study the tenets of Fascism, a political philosophy of the Left, you will find much of it in the EU which you love so much.

                As to the single currency this is a complete nonsense, but one notes there are many knaves who actively supported it in the past are now silent or against. It was never going to work and it is actually destroying the very thing you seek to build. A delicious irony.

                • Bob Waugh

                  As twaddle goes – “Fascism, a political philosophy of the Left” takes a lot to beat. That really establishes your opinions as having but a fleeting relation to reality but just for fun here are a few questions:
                  1) What’s the difference between an “old-fashioned customs union” and a modern one?
                  2) Did the high tariff walls behind which US capitalism developed in the 19th century mark its origins as a corporate state?

                • Andy

                  Mussolini was a Communist; Hitler a Socialist. Just because you don’t like the fact that Fascism has its roots in Lefty political thought is your problem.

                • Bob Waugh

                  Mussolini was a member of the Socialist Party in Italy before the First World War – he resigned as it was opposed to entering the war, of which policy he was a fanatic supporter. He came to power after the war following campaign of terror against Socialists, Communists and trade unionists. He was funded by some factory owners.
                  To Hitler “socialism” was about the racial fellowship of the supposedly racially pure”folk community”. He came to power after persuading German industrialists that his Brownshirts could destroy the “Jewish communist” trade unions.

                  After 1945 Germany saw a new political ideology – Christian Democracy- which argued for a capitalism which respected the contribution and dignity of labour; this idea derived from Catholic social teachings dated back to the 1890s. This was the basis of the deal they struck with Germany’s Social Democrats and trade unions who wanted to distance themselves from Stalinism. The shared analysis of the Weimar period was that Fascism had happened because society had fallen apart and that democracy depended on the ability of social groups to negotiate partnerships. it is rooted in Weberian sociology. This is the social partnership model which was the basis of the “economic miracle” and influenced policy in the early years of the Common Market.

                  None of this is difficult to understand, and with a bit of effort you could manage it. Read some decent history books and throw away all these illiterate pamphlets written by half-baked conspiracy theorists who string together half-understood notions and random facts to create a fantasy world for themselves.

                • Andy

                  It is not difficult to understand that Fascism has its roots in the Left, but I suppose it is to people like you. Hitler came to power via the ballot box having gained the largest number of seats twice in 1932, so the president had no choice but to ask him to form a government which he did. The rest is history as they say.

                  After the war the ‘German economic miracle’ has its roots in the ordoliberal growth model – currency reform in 1948 and radical reform of the tax system, meaning tax cuts. The large number of American troops stationed in Germany helped too – they were well paid and spent lots of money. This helped fuel the economy and what you are waffling on about (the social partnership) came after although it could be argued that this was already established and dated back to Bismarck.

                  As to the Common Market this has its origins in the Iron and Coal agreements. However, its anti-democratic nature has its origins in those treaties. The founders believed that the project of a ‘united states of Europe’ could not be built with the consent of the people, so lets not ask them. The German people were not asked if they wished to give up the Mark and join the Euro, and it was only public opinion in the UK that prevented Blair joining the Euro.

                  Of course being a ‘lefty’ yourself you will probably be unable to see how the EU is becoming increasingly authoritarian, like the Labour Party is here, how it is seeking to control business and ever more aspects of life. You should also reflect on how badly the European economy is fairing. Italy has not grown in over a decade, France is a mess and we wont even mention the crisis in Greece.

                  If you are so sure of your support for the EU then you will not object to the people having a veto over the grand designs. We could start by asking the people to approve the Lisbon Treaty, something all the parties agreed to do and then didn’t.

                  None of this is difficult to understand, and with a small amount of effort you might be able to manage it, but perhaps not.

                • Bob Waugh

                  Hitler never gained an absolute majority -of votes or seats – in a free election. The final Reichstag election before the May 1933 takeover was not such. The KPD had been banned and Brownshirts regularly broke up Socialist meetings and intimated opponents. In a free election -even when the newsreel monopoly UFA had been instructed to take its order from Goebbels by its proprietor – the Nazis could not hack it. The facts are well-known. After the 1930 election, when the Nazis came from nowhere to be coalition brokers, the rich and powerful decided they could use this Viennese oaf and his thugs, and little dreamed he would use them. Their mistake; but they soon settled down when they realised their wealth was secure, revealing they had little commitment to democracy. It was the recognition of that which lay at the roots of the post-war Cristian Democracy you so clearly cannot understand.

                  Nor do you have nay grasp of the social partnership model. According to your narrative the German trade unions were total patsies who offered up their members as wage slaves to a neo-liberal project. Try looking at what German workers won in these years through the post-war settlement. You get a few facts right. It is clear that the large NATO military presence in Germany was a Keynesian pump-primer – but you have to be coherently organised to make something of that. Compare with Britain and the ways in which its industry lost market after market by not realising the Empire as past its sell-by date,.

                  I see you’ve abandoned the assertion that the EU was originally about containing Germany, having consulted your notes and realised you confused 1919 with 1945. In fact the West German government was an active partner in the new relationship with France. it takes a spectacular degree of ignorance of history to deny the significance of that development.

                  The main failing here, through, is not your lack of factual knowledge -easily remedied – but your lack of conceptual understanding of what you are reading. You are correct to place me on the left – a social democrat in the old-fashioned sense of the term – but that does not mean I and folk like me are uncritical of the EU as it has evolved. Indeed I happen to think that the social partnership model -fine in its day – may no,longer be applicable in the era of neo-liberal failure and open class war against workers’ organisations. (Open to discuss that with other comrades.) However that does not mean I am about to align myself with a bunch of conspiracy-theory cookies and their paranoid ideas. Nor is any democratic socialist worthy of the name.

                • Andy

                  I did not say that Hitler gained a majority. Kindly read what is written. I said he gained the largest number of seats and actually of votes too. The President had little choice but to invite him to form a government.

                  I have not abandoned my ‘assertion that the EU was originally about containing Germany’ as this has been a major problem in Europe since 1870. The original EEC probably worked at containing Germany, but that meant you basically had French leadership backed up by the American Army and the British Army on the Rhine – that kept the Germans down and the Russians out. After German unification the balance of power has shifted gradually in Europe to the position we have today, which is German hegemony. The Germans do not seem to have the same guilt complex, which allowed the French to rule the roost.

                  You seem to think that Britain lost industrial market share because we did not do things the German way. The reason for much of Britain’s decline is partly because we were the first country to industrialise, but a far more important factor was the 1945 Labour Government which nationalised so much of industry, thus condemning those industries to a slow death. You also fail to grasp the effect of militant Left-wing Unions who destroyed so much as they continue to do so in the public sector. Having had experience of Left-wing union leaders I can tell you that they did not give a damn about their members jobs. It was all about the revolutionary struggle etc. They were just scum.

                  Folk like you are far too rosy eyed about the EU. It has sucked the life out of Democracies across Europe with its grandiose nonsense of ‘building Europe’. What it has been busy building is a totalitarian system only people like you are far too blind to see it or perhaps you actually approve of it as it might serve your purposes.

  • MichtyMe

    Only 0.8% of the sample think that UPIK “best stands up for the interests of Scotland”
    Curious, does the UKIP support come from masochists or a hostile ethic minority .

    • Kennybhoy

      “…a hostile ethic minority.”

      Care to elaborate on this ?

  • ButcombeMan

    M/s Henderson has apparently not written here before.

    On the basis of this puny analysis it would perhaps be better if she is not asked again.

  • AnotherDave

    A strong performance by UKIP in May, would include a strong performance by UKIP in Scotland. The most recent ICM poll has them 1% from winning a scottish MEP seat.


    Professor Curtice didn’t think there was much difference between scottish and british attitudes to the eu.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “These differences in outlook between England and Scotland could have an impact on the Scottish independence referendum in September. A strong performance by Ukip in May’s European elections might encourage Scots into the Yes camp if they read it as a signal that England may vote to leave the EU in a future in-out referendum on Europe.”


    “These differences in outlook between England and Scotland could have an impact on the Scottish independence referendum in September. A strong performance by Ukip in May’s European elections might encourage Scots into the No camp if they read it as a signal that there is unlikely to be a Tory government after the next general election.”

    Oh, no, that’s not right; that might encourage a strong performance by UKIP and that’s something to be avoided at all costs, even if it means all three of the old parties ganging up in a campaign to brand UKIP as “racist”:

  • Denis_Cooper

    “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.”

    Maybe that’s what the author’s opinion poll says, but that is not matched by what the YouGov/Sunday Times poll said: that has UKIP on 18%, above the Tories and the Greens both on 8% and the LibDems on 10%.

  • Jonathan Burns

    The UKip winning a seat in Scotland will be be slap in the face to Salmond and Cameron. Goody! Goody!

    • dalai guevara

      there is no chance of that happening

    • terregles2

      The anti Scottish remarks made by UKIP politicians Ron Northcott of Plymouth and Lord Monckton were a big slap in the face to all Scottish people.
      Don’t think insulting a whole nation will do much to increase the amount of votes that your party will gain.

  • Denis_Cooper

    This opinion poll:

    paints a rather different picture.

    On page 2, %’s saying they intend to vote for UKIP on May 22nd:

    London 23%
    Rest of south east 35%
    Midlands/Wales 32%
    North 35%
    Scotland 18%

    There are six EU Parliament seats allocated to Scotland and in 2009 the Tories took the last but one of them with 16.8% of the votes and the LibDems took the last of them with 11.5% of the votes. Then UKIP only got 5.2% of the votes, but now it looks as if they may have a chance of winning a seat.

    • UKIPmeps

      It’s the trend: journalists these days write articles without sufficient research.That’s why they write rubbish.

    • Colin Rullkotter

      That’s a weighted sample size of 160 people. What’s the margin of error on that? 8% or so?

      • Denis_Cooper

        Just over twice the margin of error with the sample of 782 people in the poll used in the article, for which no reference is given.

        • Colin Rullkotter

          The YouGov poll also has the Lib Dems beating the Tories, which doesn’t seem too realistic. We’ll find out soon.

          • Denis_Cooper

            As I said yesterday, the YouGov/Sunday Times poll is just one poll and it would unwise to go too far in trying to extract definitive conclusions from it; and exactly the same is true of the poll mentioned in this article, which appears to be that also mentioned here:


            “The latest poll commissioned by two universities and the thinktank IPPR, published on Monday evening, shows Ukip only one point behind Labour in England.

            The polling, conducted by YouGov among more than 6,700 voters between 11 and 22 April, shows Labour on 30, Ukip 29 and the Conservatives 22. The polling shows Ukip’s support varies widely. In contrast with its 29% showing in England, in Scotland it is at 10%, and in Wales, at 20%. The Lib Dems are the lowest placed of all the main parties everywhere.”

            Now I would point out that although the results have only just been published the fieldwork was actually done some time ago, “between 11 and 22 April”.

            If you look at the two left hand columns of that page 2 table in the poll I cited, giving the overall voting intentions across the country, you will see that the results from April 24 -25 had changed from the previous poll where the fieldwork was done three days before, April 21 -22, as follows:

            Tories down 3%
            Labour down 2%
            LibDems down 1%
            UKIP up 4%
            SNP/PC down 3%
            Green up 5%

            So if it is accepted that UKIP has actually made significant progress over the past week, and these are not all just random variations in the poll results, then equally it could be that the poll data used in the study described in this article were out of date even before they were fully analysed and published yesterday evening.

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