As I write, early on Monday morning, it would appear that UKIP will return an MEP in Scotland. Looking through the blogs, Facebook and Twitter, there is an awful lot of gnashing of teeth, sadness and anger. Fingers are pointed at the MSM with commentators identifying the massive coverage that UKIP have received, particularly through the medium of television. 10.4% of Scots who turned out to vote gave their allegiance to UKIP.
I’m not in the slightest surprised.
As a Scot, I know people who fit the UKIP demographic and I don’t regard them as irrational human beings, in fact they believe sincerely that they have genuine concerns that require answering.
I’ve detected a sort of centre leftist arrogance and complacency among fellow Scots; apparently we are a wholly welcoming society, ultra tolerant and progressive in thought. I’ve never believed that and I regard Scotland as a conservative society (with a small “c”).
I can accept that 1 in 10 Scots have concerns that made them think that UKIP was a better bet than the usual parties. These Scots will probably be Unionist in thought and heart, but I can be sure that many will share the classic UKIP profile of being anti EU and anti immigrant.
We should never be complacent when we discuss immigration; it requires a conversation, even among those who see themselves as the “tolerant majority”. People are unfailingly human and we shouldn’t forget that.
I think that the anti immigration issue should be approached and understood from two different view points in Scotland.
The first point is simply the numbers game. UKIP voters will see immigrants in terms of a housing queue, or competition for jobs. We should be cognisant to this and not dismiss it as silly scaremongering. Potentially 1 in 10 Scots see it as a legitimate point of conversation. We should listen to them. “The country is hard-up and we’re still letting people in!” This reaction is understandable.
The second point is rather more difficult to encapsulate in a single word or phrase, but it is a rejection of multi culturalism. Identities are important in this discussion. Scots see themselves as “Scots” or “British” and this is manifested in different ways. If you suddenly start to experience people from different cultural backgrounds living among you, taking the kids to school, standing in the checkout queue and they look or speak differently, is it beyond surprise that 1 in 10 Scots will not react in a positive way?
Scotland is a conservative society, across all shades of that society. UKIP is capturing support from all across this Scottish society. In that respect Scotland is probably no different than parts of England or France.
People are unfailingly human and we shouldn’t forget that.
The other common denominator, of course, is the EU. Immigration and austerity are causing voters to become more inward and insular in thought. The EU is the obvious bogey man in all of this.
So let us not get snobbish in a politically correct point of way. We need to accept that what has happened is a symptom of something greater. If we are genuinely a nation of tolerance, as many would like us to believe we are, then let’s be tolerant with those that would disagree with us and listen to them.
UKIP is a repository for anger. Listen to the anger, understand the anger and think about addressing the issues. That can be by gentle explanation or something more tangible but arguing among ourselves is not the answer.