THE BLOG

The SNP and Ukip Are More Similar Than You Might Think

04/12/2014 21:43 GMT | Updated 03/02/2015 10:59 GMT

If there is one organisation that the SNP despises more than the 'Tories,' the 'Red Tories' (Labour) or the Lib Dems (Yellow Tories?) it has to be Ukip. Although they regularly use harsh words against their more mainstream opponents the SNP's most caustic vitriol is reserved for the party in purple. Hamza Yusuf recently called the Euro-separatist party a 'shower of xenophobes'.

Ukip give as good as they get. A few days ago their party chairman in Scotland made the news by warning that the SNP were in danger of "returning to its 1930s fascist roots" after holding 'Nuremburg-style rallies'.

Between the SNP and Ukip there is only enmity, no quarter is expected or given.

Comparing the SNP to Ukip, even trying to suggest that there may exist similarities between the UK's two most prominent separatist movements really, really angers the Scottish Nationalists. However it is certainly worth exploring.

Pete Wishart, one of the party's few Westminster MPs, became particularly irritated when, during last week's Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron said (to many cheers and jeers) in response to Mr Wishart's question:

'I'd say that there's something that his party and Ukip have in common, which is they seek to divide people, we stand for the United Kingdom and bringing people together!'

Later, on his blog, Mr Wishart fumed writing that the comparison was "lazy and ridiculous".

In terms of policy Mr Wishart argued that the SNP are the 'polar opposite of Ukip' - the SNP standing for green energy, free healthcare and a modern, forward looking Scotland - compared to Ukip, a party of regressive rightwingers.

He concluded his thoughts with this,

'The same as Ukip? We couldn't be more different!'

This conclusion is as dangerously dismissive as it is seductively simplistic.

Of course in many areas the two parties differ (most obviously in their policies, as Mr Wishart makes clear), but in other capacities the SNP and Ukip are actually quite alike. How might we begin to explore this idea? Let's take as our starting point that both parties are, fundamentally, separatist.

Without resorting to the reduction ad absurdum argument of Mr Wishart we can simply observe that, if there are two movements; one advocating leaving X and the other advocating leaving Y (both existing in overlapping political structures), the very nature of their political formulation means it would be quite unsurprising for the two parties to resemble each other in certain ways.

For starters, both parties stand outside their respective status quo. Indeed, the political framework to which they belong is the very thing they want changed. In order to win votes both groups have to make the argument that the status quo is unsustainable, corrupt, unrepresentative and deaf to the wishes of 'the people.' Given this, it is foreseeable that their tactics and language might be very similar.

So we see that the SNP and Ukip both rail against 'Westminster' and the 'Westminster parties'. They paint themselves as popular movements and claim the support of the 'ordinary' voter: Compare Ukip's invitation to join 'the people's army' to 'take our country back' with the SNP's call to Scots to join a mass movement of democratically engaged citizens. Both groups have a deep hatred of the capital and anger with the out of touch 'London elite' is a frequent motif in SNP and Ukip language.

There are many further points on which the two parties are alike. Both groups accuse the particular political system they despise of lacking a democratic mandate. As Mr Wishart said, one of his dreams for a post-independence Scotland was that 'never again will we have a Tory Government without our democratic consent.' Democratic consent is also an important theme for Ukip who portray the EU as a fundamentally undemocratic organisation, as Nigel Farage remarked on the election (by secret ballot) of Jean Claude Juncker 'Mr Juncker's name did not appear on any single ballot paper. The whole thing has been the most extraordinary stitch-up.'

On the life of their respective nation states outside the political frameworks they hope to leave the SNP and UKIP have much the same line; life will continue as normal at first and then get better. Mr Wishart imagines a 'seamless transition' to an independent Scotland and Ukip fervently believe that, finally free from the constraints of Brussels Britain will prosper and be able to build 'harmonious relations with the rest of the world.' It is also interesting to note the importance both groups put on the vast sums of money they believe they lose to the UK/EU.

Ukip and the SNP share another trope; that the current system (even if it started out well) has degenerated to such a point that exit is the only possible answer.

Here is Wishart revealing his reasons for leaving the UK,

'We want no more picking on our vulnerable; no more obscenities such as the bedroom tax; no more of Labour's illegal wars and no more Tory or Labour weapons of mass destruction defiling our beautiful country.'

And here is Nigel Farage on Europe,

'But like Communism, this has all gone badly wrong. And the EU Titanic has now hit the iceberg. It is a European Union of economic failure, of mass unemployment, of low growth, but worst of all, it's an EU with the economic prison of the Euro. And this now poses huge dangers to the continent.'

Although the details differ the tone is comparable: the status quo has gone so badly wrong it must be broken and remade.

So is comparing Ukip to the SNP as 'lazy and ridiculous' as Mr Wishart believes?

It seems a little more complex than he thinks. Although their policies do differ markedly the two parties position themselves in the same anti-establishment corner, consistently use similar language campaigning, have comparable hopes for the future, conceptualise themselves and their relationship with their hated political frameworks in the same way and portray themselves as mass movements that represent the legitimate democratic will of society.

The SNP and Ukip have more in common than you (and they) may think.