For years the Tories have been languishing in the polls in Scotland and now UKIP is crashing and burning. What is it about the right of centre in Scotland that causes these disasters?
The answer I believe is entirely practical.
But first some background. After succeeding as a climate sceptic (we forced academics to admit that their models did not work and as a result the Kyoto Commitment ended with no prospect of a replacement), the next move was to try to undo the harm done by the unnecessary wind policy. So the sensible move was toward politics and as UKIP were the only party with anything near a common sense policy in this area I joined UKIP and almost immediately was asked to be Scottish Energy Spokesman.
Given the complete vitriol of the Scottish media toward both Climate Sceptics and UKIP, I knew I was in for a rough ride. But barring a rather desperate piece from one journalist, my entry into Scottish politics was easier & quicker than I had expected.
So, I found myself at the heart of UKIP Scotland at the beginning of 2013. The first surprise was that I was far from alone in my politics – yes to the left of the party, but with others joining from the SNP and lib Dems I was pleasantly surprised by how mainstream their views were. Very different from the public PR.
That was the good news.
The bad news was seeing the party from near the top, it quickly became painfully obvious that whilst the party hardly had the premier political team, what it did have were having to work with both hands tied behind their backs. Because no matter how hard they tried, UKIP Scotland were constantly being undermined by the “absentee landlords” down in England which was leading to demoralisation, lack of action and infighting. These problems created by the lack of interest from England were clearly discouraging more serious people from joining and/or taking an active role.
For example, I soon found that to do the job of Energy Spokesman I needed serious money. I estimated outgoing of over £2500 a year doing even the very basic job. I literally could not afford that and no doubt others were having to put far more of their own money into the party in Scotland when such expenses would come from party funds in England.
Just running the party in Scotland needed serious money, because the reality of having our own press and parliament dictates almost the same level of expenditure for the much smaller party in Scotland as it does for the whole of the party in England. At the very least, we needed a great deal of support to cope with the huge PR fire-power & vastly greater experience of the other parties in Scotland. Instead Scotland was largely ignored, often undermined and when the party heads had had enough and demanded change, they were all ignominiously got rid of.
The visit to Edinburgh was typical of the relationship. Whilst the way Nigel Farage was treated was appalling and I was sickened by the behaviour of Alex Salmond who was a disgrace to Scotland, now I’ve left UKIP, I can say that Nigel was not at all sensitive to the politics of Scotland and after his flying visit he completely ignored us in UKIP Scotland who ended up having to deal with all the shit which was flying as a result of Farage. It wouldn’t have been half so bad clearing up his shit if it had done anything useful for the party in Scotland. But it nothing except highlight the need for UKIP England to change.
The aftermath really was very bad. The ordinary party members whose views are far from extreme and could be found in any pub in Glasgow, were now afraid they would be physically injured if they went out in public for nothing else except being a member of UKIP: a direct result of Salmond’s legitimization of violence.
But this was just one of a host of other problems. The key issues in Scotland are very different from those in England. But could those who ran the party in England see that? No! Would they listen to us in Scotland, No! Would they give us the support and finance to tune the policies and presentation to fit the Scottish context – not on your nelly!
As far as I could see, UKIP Scotland’s role was seen as nothing more than voter & funding “fodder” to support English tailored policies – devised by the English – for England. Indeed, it really looked as if UKIP would just increase the disparity of political and economic benefit for Scotland which was the same reason I can never bring myself to vote Tory.
The result is that UKIP in Scotland looked like the same bunch of insensitive “Nazis” as we in Scotland saw under Thatcher, and worse even than anything seen in the EU.
So, I’ve come to understand that UKIP might not be the Tories, but they are both wearing policy coats from the same fabric. Both parties have their politics focussed on benefiting England often (albeit usually through ignorance) to the detriment of Scotland. Having lived in the SE of England and even standing for a council election, I can see why someone in the SE of England and particularly London would love them – but I can’t see much relevance at all to us in Scotland.
Personally, like many Scots who were directly affected by Thathcerism, I am still angry with the Tories for the way they intentionally destroyed Scottish industry. Yes Scottish industry needed reform! But destruction no! And the Tories obvious delight at destroying Scottish Industries was just disgusting. Their policies caused huge and unnecessary damage to Scotland and that cannot be allowed to happen again.
If Thatcher had been Scottish, she would have understood that. She wasn’t and the damage she did caused huge and long-term social and economic harm in Scotland. Scotland cannot afford to have another Thatcher government! And now that I have seen UKIP from inside, I think they probably worse than anything we saw under the Tories. So, no matter how much I support the thrust of UKIP policies, the fact is that I think Scotland would be seriously damaged if UKIP ever got control in England and that worries me. Even the incompetence and hatred of the SNP might be more tolerable than another Thatcher like government with Farage as its leader intentionally or just carelessly putting the boot into us in Scotland.
This is the fundamental problem for the right in Scotland. All right of centre parties end up being run from England and however noble their intentions, their carelessness and inconsideration for us in Scotland ends up with disastrous policies and ignorant and careless attitudes from party leaders making them look like heartless Nazis to us.
So, my diagnosis is very simple: the only way to rebalance Scottish politics is to have a new Scottish right of centre party.