Ofcom’s decision to grant UKIP priority status in May’s European elections is an insult to Scotland, writes Patrick Harvie.
Most of us who have watched Nigel Farage’s frequent appearances on BBC Question Time over the last 4 years would be forgiven for thinking that TV broadcasters already treated UKIP as “one of the club”. But now Ofcom has declared that, for the purposes of broadcasting in the run up to the European elections, UKIP is now officially up there.
My Green colleagues in England have, quite reasonably, criticised that decision and I understand why. For now, my beef is in the way that the decision rides roughshod over Scotland, where UKIP has not come even remotely close to electing someone. The Ofcom judgement nods towards Scotland’s UKIP-free status in saying that UKIP should not be given equal billing in Scotland-only broadcasts. But, of course, much of what Scottish viewers will see in the run up to May 22nd will be UK-based media and there it will be wall-to-wall Farage.
The great danger is that, despite having little resonance in Scotland and a shambles of an organisation, UKIP will be given an unjustified boost north of the Border. In May we could wake up to find ourselves with a UKIP MEP for Scotland – whose self-proclaimed aim is to use that to launch his bid to become a Westminster MP for a London borough.
Fortunately, there is a way to counter the self-fulfilling prophecy. The race for the last of the six Scottish MEP seats in May is between the UKIP’s London-based candidate and Maggie Chapman of the Scottish Greens, who is currently a senior Green councillor in Edinburgh. A Green vote is the single best way to stop UKIP getting a foothold in Scotland. No other vote, for any other party has quite the same impact.
Because it is not just a matter of voting arithmetic. It is about values. Maggie, and the Greens more generally, are the antithesis of what UKIP stands for. Greens welcome people who want to come and live, work and study here. We believe in the importance of public services and investment in them. We put community control before bankers’ bonuses. Nothing would quite deflate UKIP in Scotland than a Green trumping them in the European elections, as was the case in 2009, 2004 and any other time.
So the Ofcom decision is an affront to Scotland. But by donating to the Scottish Green campaign, by supporting our efforts to win, there is one self-fulfilling prophecy you can stop in its tracks.