UKIP make their mark in Scotland

Scottish Euro election results Image copyright PA
Image caption The SNP and Labour both won two European Parliament seats, and the Conservatives and UKIP one each

Common courtesy can sometimes be overlooked in the febrile atmosphere of an election; said atmosphere frequently amplified by lack of sleep.

So, quite deliberately, I grabbed the chance today to offer my congratulations to each of Scotland's elected MEPs among the throng gathered in Edinburgh City Chambers for the final declaration. And commiseration to those who lost out.

During that peregrination, you could see the election written in countenance. The naïve joy of UKIP at their first Scottish elected politician. The defiant pain of the Lib Dems. The relative delight of the Tories at adding to their voting share - the best Euro performance, said their leader Ruth Davidson since she was ten.

Which seems only yesterday to those of us of slightly longer pedigree.

Labour? Vote up, same two seats. Greens? Vote up, no seats. And the SNP? They topped the poll. They came first. They won the election. No doubt. They got the most votes.

What's not to like? Two things. A slight, very slight, decline in their voting share from five years ago. And, secondly, what I heard one Nationalist describe as the "bitter sweet" element of the outcome.

They had set out to win three seats and, concomitantly, to deprive UKIP of an electoral stake in Scotland. They did neither.

This provoked a paradoxical response from supporters of the Union in other parties. They dislike UKIP. They loathe UKIP. At a UK level, UKIP represent an intrinsic challenge to their votes.

But, in Scotland, such supporters of the Union would - on balance, just, all things considered - prefer UKIP to take a seat if the alternative is a discernible SNP advance.

Teeth clenched, they say that a UKIP victory - just, perhaps, maybe - suggests that Scotland is not so distinctive from England, politically, as has been suggested. That leads Labour, for example, to argue for a "progressive" counter to UKIP rather than independence.

Nonsense, say the Nationalists. Scotland has voted in an entirely different way - with UKIP receiving a third of the support they registered in England and well behind their vote in Wales. Scotland needs and requires independence.

That story can still be told - and will still be told. It's just that the narrative might have been a fraction easier for the SNP if they had indeed pre-empted a UKIP gain.

Was it a tactical error by the SNP to target UKIP in the final days of campaigning? Yes, say Labour and others. No, say SNP strategists. They needed to energise their vote and prevent Labour from overhauling the SNP. UKIP provided the conduit.

Does it tell us very much about the referendum? Not really. That will be fought on different terms, with different tactics, different issues - and a much bigger turnout.

Again, though, to the winners: well done.