Nigel Farage’s party are set to get their second MP in two weeks time, but the party is failing to make headway north of the border.
UKIP are consistently placed third in the polls, with the party racing ahead of the Lib Dems especially since the European elections earlier this year. Thursday’s YouGov poll gives the party 17%, ten points ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 7%, showing UKIP’s continued growth across the UK.
Across the UK except in one place - Scotland.
UKIP’s biggest support comes from the ‘Rest of the South’, with Thursday’s poll suggesting that 21% of that region’s voters will choose Nigel Farage’s party next May.
However, their support in Scotland remains incredibly low, with Thursday’s poll suggesting that only 5% of Scots will vote for the anti-EU party.
The party has consistently struggled north of the border, but did manage to get its first MEP earlier this year: David Coburn.
What reasons could explain UKIP’s failure to get the same sort of progress in Scotland that it is achieving in the rest of the UK?
One such reason is arguably the SNP and Alex Salmond. To many across the southern parts of the UK, Nigel Farage and a vote for his party is a vote against the establishment. A vote against Westminster. A vote against the expected political norms. Whilst the two parties differ dramatically in terms of policy they do fill a similar space on the political playing fields. Both parties, and the men who lead them, are anti-establishment figures. Whilst they represent that in different ways, the SNP’s dominance in Scotland likely plays a part in UKIP’s failure to make headway in Scotland.
Additionally, this reason also helps uncover another part of UKIP’s problem. The SNP are one of the many parties in Scotland. The country’s party system is much more pluralistic than in the rest of the UK, which in effect downs out new parties. The SNP, the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party are just a few of the alternatives on offer north of the border. This is partly down to the proportional AMS voting system in place for Scottish Parliament elections.
Furthermore, part of UKIP’s struggle is that polls suggest that Scotland is marginally less Eurosceptic than the rest of the UK. The most recent poll on EU membership suggested that Britain would vote to remain in the EU (44%-36%).
Out of all the regions/nations of the UK, the poll suggested that Scotland is the most likely to vote to remain. 62% said they would vote to remain in the EU, whilst just 24% said they would vote to leave. Meanwhile, in the Midlands/Wales 38% said they would vote to stay, whilst 41% would vote to leave.
It is likely that all the factors mentioned play a role in weakening UKIP’s grip in Scotland. The party is set to see massive gains next May, if only in terms of their share of the popular vote. How they do in Scotland will be most interesting in some ways as it could show UKIP fully breaking into the Scottish political arena.
Thursday’s YouGov poll: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/ry0xvq662k/YG-Archive-Pol-Sun-results-051114.pdf
October’s YouGov poll on EU membership: http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/xi7ec8pg93/RedBoxResults_141021_EU_membership.pdf