Don't give UKIP a voice in Scotland

DEMOCRACY is meant to offer meaningful choice, but it still leaves many people feeling the need for the occasional protest vote.

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Protest can be a deadly serious business of course, as with New Labour and the Iraq War.

But often the desire to give political parties a kicking comes from a disillusionment with politics in general.

I would like to hope that at the next opportunity, in just four months, Scotland will instead register a positive vote for change.

The European Parliament election in May is starting to appear on people's radar, and we're being told by London-based pundits and pollsters to expect a protest vote for the anti-Europe UK Independence Party.

However, you don't have to scratch far beneath the surface to see it's an outfit that has less resonance north of the Border.

A YouGov poll has UKIP on a sliding scale; the further north you go in the UK the lower their vote.

In Scotland they're neck and neck with the Greens in the race to take one of Scotland's six European Parliament seats.

It's clear that if we want to keep Scotland UKIP-free we need a strong Green vote in May's election.

On one hand it's easy to dismiss UKIP given their clown-like behaviour.

This week they had to suspend one of their councillors after he blamed the recent flooding on... wait for it... same sex marriage.

One of their MEPs, Godfrey Bloom, called developing countries "bongo-bongo land" and made insulting comments about women party members.

We also know that the party here in Scotland, what little of it there was, is mired in infighting.

But on the other hand, many people are understandably weary of an out-of-touch Westminster political class, and relentless tabloid headlines about "benefit tourists" and the meddling of "Brussels bureaucrats" only serve the UKIP agenda. When David Cameron labels UKIP "fruitcakes" he's giving them the anti-establishment gloss they seek.

I believe we should instead be challenging what they really stand for.

UKIP's immigrant-bashing rhetoric bears no relation to the facts on the ground, but fuels racism and resentment.

Their blinkered attitude to climate change is completely at odds with science and would prevent Scotland making the most of its natural resources and skilled workforce.

And their intolerance towards equality firmly underlines just how out of date and out of touch they are.

It's clear that Europe needs to be more accountable, more transparent and more sustainable.

But I think most people in Scotland want to change Europe and not to leave it.

We understand the benefits of doing business across borders and welcoming those who come here for work. Migration to Scotland enriches our culture, strengthens our economy and is vital to sustaining many of our communities and public services.

Scotland's not so daft as to ditch all that to keep Nigel Farage happy.

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