A Comres/Sunday People poll was released overnight, the detail of which makes for interesting reading from both a UK and Scottish perspective.
There will be enough headlines garnered regarding UKIP powering into second place in European Parliament voting intentions ahead of the Conservatives, pushing Cameron into an even more difficult position over Europe, so there’s no need to go there.
It is to the Scottish breakdown of this poll that we look and the voting intentions there are as follows:
SNP – 34%
Labour – 27%
UKIP – 14%
Conservatives – 7%
Lib Dems – 6%
The sample size is small but the above doesn’t feel too ridiculous and it would suggest that Scotland’s meagre six MEP spots for 2014 to 2019 would be allocated out as follows:
SNP – 3
Labour – 2
UKIP – 1
An SNP MSP on Twitter has already made the knee-jerk reaction that UKIP winning a seat in Scotland is unthinkable but, well, is it?
Recent polls have suggested that more Scots are in favour of leaving the EU as there are wishing to remain and it is certainly clear from this weekend’s poll at least that Scottish opinion on the EU is lockstep with that over the border, where UKIP enjoyed great successes back in 2009.
While this in itself may sound odd, it’s worth noting that the UK’s one and only referendum on EU membership back in the 70s saw those in England and Wales voting in favour of Europe in greater proportions than Scotland, a 9% differential.
In order to win an MEP spot, UKIP needs to win a share of the vote that is more than a third of the SNP’s and Labour’s. They may also require to beat the Lib Dems, the Conervatives and the Greens (grossly underestimated in this poll as they aren’t named as an option).
While I do believe that the Conservatives will receive a higher share of the vote than 7% in 2014, I really don’t believe that UKIP beating them is so unlikely. The Scottish electorate has proved that it understands the different voting systems at play; that, for example, they can vote for an SNP majority and not be at risk of getting independence by accident and that change at Westminster doesn’t come about through changing MPs in Scotland.
It could well be a similar story with UKIP. The large numbers of Scots unhappy with the current arrangements with the European Union will feel free enough to vote for UKIP knowing that there is no risk of them representing Scotland at Holyrood or Westminster.
This would be problematic for the SNP and problematic for the Tories.
The SNP because if they were denied a third MEP then they would also be denied a momentum building result from these elections mere months from the independence referendum.
For the Tories, they finally have an issue here where there are more Scots in line with one of their policies rather than less. However, UKIP is robbing Ruth Davidson of that opportunity to make the breakthrough and leaving her nowhere to go. She could move more pro-referendum and more anti-EU, but this would be to the wrath of David Cameron who will wish to keep EU relations lukewarm at least and if Ruth moves more pro-EU then she will simply be drowned out amidst the gentle Brussel platitudes that the Scottish left of centre parties sprout out from time to time.
There’s only one primary concern that I have regarding Scotland and MEPs though, and I do hope that this will be one of the main focuses of the 2014 campaign. As part of the UK Scotland has 6 MEPs but with independence we would have around 13. The argument that we have more power as part of a UK bloc doesn’t hold much water when independence would (1) give us more votes in the Parliament and (2) allow our MEPs to side with other countries and other parties across the Continent.
This weekend’s poll suggests Scots are getting more savvy about the EU and how their vote can be utilised, I do hope that savviness grows over the next 16 months or so and rather than sullenly slink out of Europe through a vote for UKIP, Scots move the other way and seek to increase their influence through a vote for one of the pro-independence parties.