The first time I ever came face to face with UKIP in Scotland was two years ago, just ahead of the European elections. Expecting victory, the party had called a triumphalist, mid-morning press conference in a Tesco cafe in the east end of Glasgow. It soon became apparent, however, that no one at UKIP had actually asked for permission to hold it there, as the flustered store manager began turfing the party's candidates out to the car park. Not the kind of thing that's meant to happen in politics two days before a crucial election, but exactly the sort of catastrophe that's become the hallmark of the party's Scottish operation.
Ever since UKIP first emerged, even as its stature grew in England, the party's Scottish wing has been locked in a continual struggle for relevance, and sometimes just survival. It's a battle that has often descended into complete farce, from party members getting stuck inside pubs to endless internal factionalism and derisory votes. It didn't help that, until late 2013, the party was presided over by an eccentric aristocrat, Lord Monckton, who believes that climate change is a conspiracy to install a "supra-national World Dictatorship".
But all of that is meant to be in the past. UKIP in Scotland is now a winning team, the straight talking anti-politicians ready to "shake up Holyrood", or something. Yesterday, the party launched its Scottish manifesto, detailing what its MSPs will push for if they find themselves in Holyrood next month. Fronted by clownish MEP David Coburn, over the last year the party has been pursuing a strategy of being as outrageous and wacky as possible, a perpetual bid to maintain viral coverage. "We need a bit of showmanship," Coburn said recently, likening himself to Boris Johnson. "If I have to sprint naked down Clydeside to get more votes, I'd do it."
It's a strategy that could pay off, as the party only needs about 6 percent on the regional list vote to get someone elected. With this in mind, what can we expect UKIP Scotland's budding MSPs to get up to if they do succeed?
THEY NO LONGER WANT TO ABOLISH THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
Great news, everyone! After standing in the last Holyrood elections on the bold platform of effectively abolishing the Scottish Parliament, UKIP has apparently seen the error of its ways. "We know the idea of a Scottish Parliament has a majority of support," the party finally acknowledged in its new manifesto. Could the U-turn be something to do with the vote it received last time – a minuscule 0.9 percent? Who says politicians don't listen to what the voters want!
THEY WANT TO BRING BACK SMOKING IN PUBS
We've just passed the ten-year anniversary of the pub smoking ban in Scotland, a day that saw most people wondering how they ever tolerated indoor smoking in the first place. Not UKIP, though. They're looking out for the little guys, their core electorate: ageing pipe smokers; people who enjoy getting someone else's smoke in their eye; non-smokers who don't want to do the puffing themselves, but miss the halcyon days of going home smelling like an ashtray.
THEY WANT TO RAISE THE DRINK DRIVING LIMIT
UKIP Scotland has a mixed history when it comes to pubs, forever haunted by that time Nigel Farage got barricaded into one on Edinburgh's Royal Mile by a mob of anti-racism protesters. However, they seem to have put those bad memories to one side, as the party are now embarking on a crusade to save the Scottish pub – a mission for which they have some interesting ideas.
The first: allowing people to drink more alcohol before they drive. The party wants to increase the drink-driving limit by 60 percent, which would bring Scotland in line with the rest of UK, with one of the highest limits in Europe.
THEY WANT MORE HELP FOR LANDOWNING ESTATES
At long last, a party that's willing to speak up for the aristocratic elites who, by controlling vast swathes of rural Scotland, continue to ensure the country has the most unequal distribution of land ownership in the developed world. With land reform a big issue in Scotland right now, UKIP have set out their opposition to the scrapping of tax breaks for sporting estates, and what they call a "thinly disguised land grab" by the state against "private citizens".
UKIP Scotland also wants to see the creation of a new agency "to promote Scottish country sports to people abroad", which I guess makes it a party that only welcomes foreigners if they're coming to shoot things.
THEY WANT TO SAVE OUR CHILDREN FROM INDOCTRINATION
"We would end political correctness in schools and introduce a specific Act aimed at banning damaging political propaganda being passed off as fact. Indoctrination of young minds is wrong," says the manifesto.
How do you ban political correctness? Enforced gender stereotypes? Compulsory racism? By only teaching children in imperial measurements? It could be the case that UKIP have not fully thought this one through. However, there's some speculation that it might be a dig at the growing momentum behind this campaign for LGBT-inclusive education in Scottish schools.
THEY WANT TO CRACK DOWN ON GAELIC ROAD SIGNS AND TRAVELLERS' SITES
It wouldn't be a UKIP manifesto without some dog-whistle gestures thrown in about minority groups. Bilingual road signs are currently the bête noir of angry keyboard unionists, who insist they form part of a sinister nationalist agenda, diverting funds from more worthy projects and giving preferential treatment to the Gaelic-speaking minority. None of this is true, but it hasn't stopped a torrent of memes on the subject, which UKIP will be keenly aware of. Gaelic speakers shouldn't feel too special about being singled out here, as there's also a paragraph chucked in about how UKIP will set the police on "illegal traveller's sites".
THEY WANT TO MAKE IT EASIER TO GET AIRGUNS
Smoking in pubs and a higher drink drive limit were a start, but what else could UKIP dredge up in their big effort to rewind the clock at least ten years? Air guns! The party is furious about a new licensing law which has come into effect in Scotland that will make it illegal to own an air weapon without a license or permit, and say they will implement "less draconian legislation" in its place.
Tl;dr: Guns, booze and cigarettes. Whatever happens on the 5th of May, UKIP are probably not going to make Scotland great again.
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