Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Farage seeks Scotland breakthrough

Nigel Farage was targeted by protesters when he campaigned in Scotland for a by-election

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has boasted he could snatch two seats in Scotland for the European Parliament as his party tries to make a breakthrough north of the border.

He spoke out in Edinburgh one year after he had to rescu ed by police from a group of rowdy protesters in the Scottish capital.

Mr Farage, whose party is not represented at any level in Scotland, says voters are being conned by First Minister Alex Salmond's SNP as well as the mainstream parties in the Better Together campaign fighting for a No vote in September's independence referendum.

The MEP was in Edinburgh to back candidate David Coburn at a rally in the Corn Exchange, where hundreds of protesters gathered to taunt supporters.

But a bullish Mr Farage declared: "We're on course to win one seat in the European Parliament in Scotland, and if things go really well, possibly even two.

"We will have a legitimate voice in Scottish politics in two weeks time.

"Mr Salmond is pretty scared of us. He's not not scared of the size of us at the moment, but he is very scared of the argument.

"He is offering the Scottish people in September a referendum on independence. They think they've got referendum on independence, but they haven't.

"Mr Salmond is a Euro-federalist fanatic, he wanted to sign Scotland up to the euro, he wants Scotland to be part of the European Union and you cannot be an independent, self governing, democratic nation, and be member of a club whose laws are supreme over yours."

The whole of the United Kingdom should be independent with devolved powers to each part, he argues.

A Ukip win will shock people in the run up to the Scottish independence referendum, being held on September 18, he predicted.

"When they actually realise that Mr Salmond has not told them the truth about independence, that Better Together dare not tell the truth because they also believe in being members of the European Union, they'll realise that the Scottish people have been conned," he said.

Ukip fundamentally changed the debate in England after gaining a "toe hold" in Brussels, he said.

"If you look at the opinion polls, Euroscepticism in Scotland is rising pretty rapidly.

"I think we can inject something fresh that will make a lot of Yes voter think again."

Shortly after he began to give media interviews, about 300 protesters had gathered outside, with some yelling "Nazi scum, off our streets".

Radical Independence, supported by other left-wing groups, had been advertising coach seats to take people from Glasgow to a rally in Edinburgh.

Unite Against Facism had called for all those "sickened" by Ukip's adverts to gather in protest.

The First Minister urged voters to defeat Ukip at the ballot box, rather than through protest.

"Nigel Farage and his party will not be defeated by demonstrations, which only give him the chance to play the victim, but by being humiliated at the ballot box, as they have been many times before in Scotland," Mr Salmond said.

"And it is great that the candidate best placed to stop Ukip in their tracks in Scotland is the number three candidate on the SNP's list, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.

"Tasmina, as a successful Scottish businesswoman from an Asian background, is very much the face and voice of the new Scotland we are building, in stark contrast to Farage's party.

"Tasmina's politics are as inspiring and progressive as Farage and Ukip's are backward-looking and unpleasant.

"This election is as clear a contrast and choice that Scotland has ever faced at the polls, and I am confident that people will make the right choice by keeping Scotland free of the politics of Ukip."

Ukip won a tiny 0.91% of the vote across Scottish regions in the 2011 Holyrood election.

At the time, the party pledged to replace MSPs with Scottish Westminster MPs.

But polls from last month suggest a level of support around 10% for the European election, giving the party a chance of victory.

Last May, during a Holyrood by-election campaign, staff were forced to clear the Canons' Gait pub on the Royal Mile as protesters gatecrashed an impromptu press conference.

He attempted to escape by taxi but protesters blocked its path, forcing him back to the pub, where police barricaded him inside until a riot van arrived.

Afterwards, the First Minister said Mr Farage is "someone who is outwith the context of normal politics".

The SNP has two MEPs and hopes to add a third. Labour has two seats and the Tories and Liberal Democrats have one each.

A dip in fortunes for the Lib Dems means one seat could change hands at their expense.

The Scottish Green Party also hopes to benefit and send its first MEP to Brussels.

Protesters loudly booed and heckled Ukip members as they tried to pass them and a line of 10 police officers to gain entry.

One group played loud music while alternately singing along, or yelling "scum", over disco classics.

Some Ukip members kept their heads down while others waved or made victory signs on the venue steps.

Former Socialist MSP Colin Fox was at the protest and said: "Nigel Farage is a merchant banker coming to Scotland telling us the financial crisis was caused by immigrants and claimants.

"In Nigel Farage's world he thinks he'll get elected, but not here.

"In two weeks time Ukip is going to top the polls in England and it will only underline the case for Scottish independence."

Maggie Chapman, who hopes to win a seat for the Scottish Green Party, was also outside the venue.

She said: "Nigel Farage pretends to be against the establishment but it's a smokescreen, he is the establishment."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz