Why do UKIP struggle in Scotland?

Nigel Farage’s party got an impressive 13% of the vote last month but failed to get even 2% in Scotland. Why?


One possible reason for UKIP's struggle  in Scotland could be that Scotland is less Eurosceptic than the rest of the UK. If this is true then it makes sense that UKIP support would be lower as Euroscepticism is one of the key selling points of voting UKIP. Is there merit to this argument?

Many opinion polls seem to indicate that Scotland is indeed less Eurosceptic than the rest of the United Kingdom. For example, the most recent YouGov poll suggested that 44% of UK voters want to remain in the EU, against the 36% in disagreement. For those respondents in Scotland the figures stood at 59%-28% for staying in. Other polls seem to show a similar trend. However, these does not appear to be a massive difference. Significant yes, but smaller than one might have thought. As a result there must be other reasons.

Anti-Establishment vote

UKIP and the SNP are very different in terms of where they are on the political spectrum. One’s on the left, the other’s on the right. But they have one major thing in common: a vote for them is a vote against the ‘Westminster establishment’. The two parties have very different aims by capturing this anti-establishment vote but with the SNP taking a lot of it above the border then there is a case to be made that as a result UKIP have little room to move in Scotland.

Additionally, Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have dominated English politics for a long time. After the 2010 election Lib Dem support and UKIP support increased suggesting many protest voters switching along those lines. However, in Scotland many Liberal Democrats switched to the SNP therfore weakening UKIP’s potential support north of the border.

Competing Nationalisms

Another reason could be the perception that UKIP are essentially a de facto English nationalist party. Resultantly with such perceptions the party is highly unlikely to make progress in Scotland. An article in the New Statesman last year argued that “It's not anti-immigrant populism Scots are immune to, it's English nationalism and that the party’s success is connected to a recent rise in English nationalism. Furthermore, with a strong nationalist presence in Scotland already this dilutes UKIP’s presence in Scotland further.

So what next for UKIP?

An EU referendum is now inevitable, but if UKIP keep up there success they will need to build on second places in 2015 for the 2020 elections, none of which were in Scotland. Five years is a long time in British politics, but the party still has a long way to go if it wants to make an impact north of the border.


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