Of all the lazy and ridiculous comparisons made in politics the one that goes, ‘The SNP is just the same as UKIP’ ranks as one of the most absurd. This week even the Prime Minister got in on the act in response to a question from me in Prime Minister’s Questions.
Let’s look at this at its most ridiculous. To buy into this you have to accept the simplistic formula which advocates that if you want to leave X you must therefore be the same as another party or movement that is advocating to leave Y. This therefore means every independence movement in history, and yet to come, is essentially Farage-ist in outlook and, by default, can be conveniently bundled together with him. Poor old George Washington wasn’t so much fighting for American independence but was, in fact, an unwitting predecessor, advocating the leaving of a European superstate. Then there’s Gandhi, enjoying his fags and beer, whilst trying to get Indian independence. How was he to know he was nothing other than an evil separatist? Oppressed nations or those that believe that self-Government could help transform their nation? Forget it, you rotten UKIP fellow-travellers! This is how nonsensical this lazy comparison is.
Let’s then have a cursory look at what UKIP and the SNP share in terms of policy to see if this helps make sense of any comparison. Immigration, don’t think so? Green energy, got me there? Redistribution, the Health Service, equalities, defence, the environment, ehm, maybe not? If anything the SNP is the polar opposite of UKIP. The SNP also has a progressive world-view that believes in international solidarity and welcomes and encourages our membership of international institutions. We are just about the most enthusiastic champions of European Union membership and one of the reasons we wanted our independence was to ensure we wouldn’t be taken out of Europe, against our will.
We just happen to believe that Westminster is no longer capable of delivering the change that we, as a nation, require. We are a Scotland with our own institutions and Parliament – a confident and culturally-secure nation. We, in the SNP, think we’d be a damned impressive independent nation that could do something remarkable and might even be a positive example to the World community. We have never wanted to ‘separate’ from anyone, merely recalibrate political relationships in these islands to allow different component parts, with different priorities, the opportunity to achieve and secure those priorities.
But, let me see… Is there perhaps any other political party in the UK that might better warrant this, ‘just the same as UKIP’ tag? Well, Prime Minister what about your Conservative Party? Isn’t it the case that the Conservative party, absolutely terrified of UKIP’s progress, have become practically nothing other than a UKIP-lite? In fact the whole of the House of Commons is in thrall to UKIP, and Farage pulls nearly all the strings in the Commons. It is his agenda of European exit and immigration that dominates daily discourse on the green benches.
Pandering to UKIP has been a disaster for the Conservatives. By-election results and a cursory look at opinion polls clearly demonstrate that to be the case. But Labour, always late to the show, also want a piece of the action. Not content with their own disastrous poll ratings they want to reduce them even further with their own UKIP inspired agenda. Listening to Yvette Copper last week was like listening to any UKIP candidate fighting in any recent by-election. It’s almost like a Westminster establishment death wish is going on as UKIP grow stronger and stronger with their agenda adopted by all the UK parties who can never beat them on their own ground.
Instead of ‘being the same as UKIP’ the SNP seem to be about the only party in the UK prepared to take them on. We won’t join them in a race to the bottom because we absolutely reject their narrow world-view and pernicious agenda. The same as UKIP? We couldn’t be more different!