What few people mention is we're only getting a referendum on the EU because UKIP have it in their manifesto. Seems the Tory Party was rather miffed in 2014 when two of their number jumped ship, moved to UKIP and jolly well won their by-elections. Mark Reckless was the catalyst when he took Rochester & Strood - a Tory safe seat - with 42% of the vote vs the Tories 35%. Suddenly UKIP was a real threat to the Conservative Party and the decision makers decided to hijack UKIP's promise of a referendum.
From a rocky start UKIP has grown in popularity, partly because of their policies, partly because it's a diverse collection of individuals, most with no previous experience of politics, some of whom are inclined to shoot from the hip. That's fine with me, the more honest and authentic the emotion, the more I respect the individual. I may not agree with every uttering that's come out of the mouths of UKIP MEP's or even those standing for local election, but we've got our very own eccentric in the form of Handyman Phil: he stood for election in the Saffron Ward of Leicester and came third, beating 7 others using his real name of Phil Johnson (01). I like our Phil because he was there at the beginning with Freedom 2 Choose, though he quit with them some time ago. However he still sticks to his guns with his no-holds-barred blog (02) that concentrates on the smoking ban.
My experience is there are many people like Phil in UKIP and they're thoroughly disillusioned with the present state of politics. They really do want to shake things up, to cut waste and red-tape - and of course to allow indoor smoking rooms.
Some have a rather scathing opinion of UKIP as well as the people who support them. One outspoken critic is Jackart who opines that of the four million or so who voted for UKIP at the General Election, as many as eight million voted strategically to keep them out of office (03). That may or may not have been the case, nevertheless First Past the Post is a tough one for small parties - and that's all there is for most English voters, except when they vote at EU elections. Then they can vote with their heart and that's why UKIP has more MEP's than any other political party representing us in Brussels.
Trouble is UKIP has a groundswell of support that's somewhere between 10 and 15% across the country and that's not enough under FPtP. However the Welsh and Scottish Assembly elections are run under a hybrid system that elects a certain number of MP's under FPtP and some under Proportional Representation (04). I have no great interest in the Welsh elections but did find a reasoned analysis of what may emerge in Cardiff in May 2016 (04). It was written in February and indicates that UKIP may get 6 seats in the new assembly.
In Scotland we elect 56 MSP's by the Additional Members System. That's 7 MSP's from 8 regions and while there's no official threshold as such, the Greens and the Scottish Socialists both got people into Holyrood with less than 10% of the vote.
There is a hard core of support for UKIP in Scotland; after all they managed to get one MEP at the last EU election when they took an impressive 10.6% of the vote, much to the humiliation of Mr. Salmond. Even at the last General Election, when there wasn't a snowballs' hope in hell of their winning any seats, they still managed to poll 2.6%. Both need to be seen against the EU election figure for 2009 and the General Election of 2010 when they polled 5.2% and 0.7% respectively.
The Scots are now very familiar with rigged polls, a compliant media and outright hostility to UKIP and their supporters by the establishment. The SNP would have us believe that as a nation we're dead set on being a part of the EU, oh and that the smoking bans have been an unqualified success that's deeply popular. Both are utter crap, with a March 2016 poll showing that about 55% of Scots would be supportive of separate smoking rooms in pubs and clubs (05). What is true is support for Scottish Labour is evaporating and the Liberals' are in for a right old kicking.
However support for the SNP has its limits and it seems that some people would prefer to vote for anything but the SNP (and their outline plan for smokers may well dissuade a few others (06)) so this poll, taken in early February 2016 - well before the EU referendum date was announced - indicates there may be an increase in the number of Green MSP's as well as up to four UKIP MSP's (07)! What's interesting is this is the first time any respectable poll has even mentioned UKIP.
So yes UKIP has forced the in-out referendum and goodly number of people who voted for UKIP did so because it's the only party of consequence to include smokers in their manifesto (08) - number 41 - that says "Amend the smoking ban to promote choice for ventilated smoking rooms". So it could be said that all this has been brought about because of us lot!
Mr. Cameron sought to persuade some people to vote for his party rather than UKIP because of his promise of a referendum. I don't know if it made any difference or not; personally I suspect it was the prospect of a Miliband / Salmond coalition that had a greater impact on the election results, as well as widespread disillusion with the Liberal Democrats. Whatever, we have a referendum date that's the 26th June - and that's handed UKIP a gold-plated opportunity to talk sense about a subject they know very well indeed; the EU and Brussels.
I believe this will reflect in both Assembly Elections, partly because many people in Wales and Scotland have a deep and abiding distrust of the EU and partly because UKIP (Scotland) is the only party in Scotland to pledge to amend the smoking ban and introduce indoor smoking rooms. One good thing about proportional representation is, having passed the threshold, it can suddenly deliver a second MSP if they poll more than about 10% of the votes, so there's a real possibility that UKIP could get several more AM's in Cardiff as well MSP's as Holyrood.
I see the Scottish poll indicates there may be one UKIP MSP voted into office by the people of Lothian. That's my patch - and they forecast the vote may be a little over 8%. I wonder how many people are like myself; I never tell pollsters the truth, and that's why I take any poll with a pinch of salt. We who despise the present political elite in Scotland will never say so openly, we quietly try to enlighten others in private - and the prospect of a relaxation of the smoking ban is a powerful way to get attention. We do what we can and we make sure we get off our backsides on the day and vote.
I'll find out how many think the same as myself on the morning of Friday 6 May 2016.
15 April 2016.
UKIP's candidate list has been published, so check out if you know any of them (09).
Guardian newspaper article confirming that UKIP will push to amend the smoking ban in Scotland to allow indoor smoking rooms (10).
Here's their manifesto for Scotland. You want pages 7 and 8 (11).