There were several surprises thrown up at the EU elections and Scotland was in there with the rest, our headline being that UKIP took the 6th seat from the Liberal Democrats! That's quite an achievement, assisted in part by that outrage of Mr. Farage being harangued and kettled in Edinburgh in 2013 by an outfit called the "Radical Independence Campaign" (1).
Seems direct action of this type doesn't sit well with many Scots (this one included) and the subsequent negative publicity, mainly directed at the RIC and reported by the national and many international media outlets, helped raise awareness of UKIP and showed Mr. Farage as an innocent victim. Own goal for the RIC, especially as they're now so well funded and orchestrated that they can call out several hundred "supporters" to try to block any visit by Mr. Farage and make every effort to intimidate those who would like to hear his message - as they did again in May 2014 (2). Anyone who thinks our Greens are tree-hugging softies had best get real, they're nothing of the sort. They, together with the Scottish Socialist Party, are bankrolling this lot.
However it was an EU election and the final results for Scotland are (3):
SNP 29% (2 MEP's)
Labour 25.9% (2 MEP's)
Conservative 17.2% (1 MEP)
UKIP 10.5% (1 MEP)
Lib Dems 7.1%
So UKIP managed to double their share of the vote from 2009 and on the 1st July David Coburn will take the seat, reluctantly vacated by George Lyon, in Brussels (4) to represent more than 1 in 10 of the voting public in Scotland. The good news is David will join a newly formed block in parliament, led by Mr. Farage and known as "Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy" (EFDD). That guarantees additional funding as well as additional time to debate issues in parliament. What's delightful about this grouping is it's big - 48 in total - and they managed to bring in the Five Star Movement (5), which is a real coup! The coming years should be far more interesting and probably more amusing in the EU parliament!
As Ms. Le Pen has been unable to form her own block (6), then the Front National as well as the Dutch Freedom Party, amongst many other eurosceptic parties are likely to vote with the EFDD. And when it comes to further integration within the EU then the block headed by our Tory party - the Conservative and Reformists group (ECR) is also likely to join with EFDD to slow or block the more damaging initiatives suggested by J C Juncker. Together that's an awful lot of opposition, including the Alternative for Germany party that's joined the ECR group.
People here can debate the implications of this for the next five years (7), however it doesn't alter the fact that the number of parties in favour of Scotland remaining as a part of the Union hasn't changed. UKIP's position is the same as the Lib/Dems.
It's our relationship with the EU that mattered with this election - and I'm encouraged that more than 13% of those who voted stuck to the matter in hand and voted for eurosceptic parties. And it's way down the list where I found the greatest surprise of all. Britain First managed to get 1% of the votes, beating the BNP (that only managed 0.8%, down from 2.5% in 2009). That's mighty impressive for a red raw party that sprung up simply because Nick Griffin runs the BNP as his own fiefdom. As long as Griffin refuses to accept that he's the problem, the BNP is destined for political obscurity.
Sure these extreme right wing parties don't amount to a hill of beans in the overall scheme of things... at the moment. But this is one issue that the "yes" camp need to wary of - and that's the fact that Holyrood has already committed to Proportional Representation for all elections if they gain independence. So we can see a very different political scenario emerging should they win the referendum - something I mulled last year (8). Forming a coalition will become mandatory in Scotland, with all the problems - and advantages - associated with that system.
If these results are an indication of what we might see in 2020, then it'll be a mishmash of oddities designed to block the Tories and UKIP. No matter what coalition they lash together, there will be horse trading beforehand, there will be deals struck and without doubt many of the more outrageous - and prohibitively expensive - promises made by the SNP will quashed.
I prefer PR to first past the post and suspect that many more will resist our joining the EU should Scotland gain independence. I also believe that the extreme right wing of politics will grow. Voter turnout in the UK as a whole (less rejected ballots) was 34.2% and Scotland mirrored the national trend. Yes voter apathy won the day, however it's my belief that we're likely to see a dramatic uptick in participation once voters have a genuine choice.
As things stand it looks like Holyrood will go for PR with a 5% threshold. I think that sucks: 3% is far better for a country that's as diverse as ours. 5% is designed to keep out some of the more radical groups from either extreme of the political spectrum - and that may work during the early years of independence.
But that's on the basis that all goes well and there's an acceptable trickle down effect. When things go badly wrong we will see something like Golden Dawn emerge. And then there are the courts; they came to the aid of small parties in Germany and that's why their National Democratic Party (NDP) managed to get one MEP, even though they only attracted 1% of the vote in Germany. As there's a legal precedent, albeit in Germany, I'd be very disappointed if Britain First, the Scottish Defence League and the BNP don't make every effort to have the same rule introduced in Scotland.
These are issues that are frequently overlooked in the frenetic activity to persuade people to vote one way or the other. It's terribly convenient for them, however my gut tells me it'll take very little time for this country to sink into an economic and political quagmire with the very real probability of mass migration down south.
Nevertheless this can work in our favour. Politics is such a lucrative business that I fully expect to see many more parties emerge that want to see the smoking ban amended, even if that might mean withdrawing from FCTC. That of course will be void in Scotland until such time as it's been ratified by our independent parliament!