21 May 2011

SP11: BNP in Scotland...

In the Westminster General election of 2010 that punted the present mottled coalition into power, a queer thing happened in Banff and Buchan. Nationally, the British National Party attracted only 8,910 votes, standing in thirteen Scottish constituencies. Elsewhere, in primarily urban seats such as Glasgow and Dundee, the party managed only hundreds of votes - but Alex Salmond's old waddling ground up in the North East cast some 1,010 votes in favour of the BNP.

As I have noted here before, I'm from the opposite side of Scotland myself - head down and west and squint into the stinging surf of the Atlantic - so I could only examine Banff and Buchan's outstanding BNP result with a measure of bemused perplexity. At the time, commenter Doug Daniel, himself a north eastern loon, offered this account of the constituency's Westminster results. With that tucked away in the back of my mind, I was interested to see how the racist British Nationalists fared this time around, in particular in the North East Scotland regional ballot. 

In 2003, the BNP did not stand in the Scottish Parliament elections. In the 2007, they polled at 24,616 votes across the Scottish regional lists, 1.2% of the national poll and secured no parliamentarians. In the North East Scotland, the party secured only 2,764 votes, constituting just over 11% of the national BNP total.  Elsewhere in 2007, they attracted 4,125 votes in Central Scotland (16.8% of the party's national poll); 3,865 in Glasgow (15.7%); 2,152 in the Highlands and Islands (8.7%); 2,637 in the Lothians (10.7%); 2,620 in Mid-Scotland and Fife (10.6%), 3,212 in the South of Scotland (13.0%) and 3,241 in the West of Scotland (13.2%). In contrast with the Westminster result in Banff and Buchan, more generally, the North East comes in fifth of eight regions in terms of the magnitude of the BNP vote. 

So how fared the party, four years on? The answer, gratifyingly, is pretty disastrously.

Nationally, the BNP only managed 15,580 votes this time around - a vote share of 0.78%, a fall of 0.42% on their 2007 performance - and a whopping 9,036 fewer regional votes than they secured in the preceding Holyrood election. And on a regional basis? A shrinking BNP vote across the board. In Central Scotland, the most promising region for the BNP based on 2007's results, the party's support was cut in half, decreasing by 1,911 votes to only 2,214 in this election. 

In the Highlands and Islands, the region where the BNP vote was at its lowest ebb in 2007, recorded a contraction of a similar magnitude, the party's support decreasing by 1,018 votes to 1,134.

In my own region of Glasgow, BNP support fell by 1,441 votes to 2,424

In Lothian, 1,978, voters continued to exercise their franchise in the party's favour, albeit deserted by 659 erstwhile fellow travellers of 2007. 

In South Scotland, 2,017 voted BNP in 2011, a decrease of 1,195 votes. 

In Mid-Scotland and Fife, 1,726 folk supported the BNP, down by 894 on their 2007 support, while in West Scotland, 2,162 electors chose Nick Griffin's crew, a decreased turnout of 1,079

And our old eldritch friend, the North East? This time around, the region cast only 1,925 votes for the BNP, down 839, meaning the region casts fewer ballots for the racist BNP than every other region except Mid-Scotland and Fife and the Highlands and Islands.  If anything, the results simply makes more bemusing 2010's relative successes for the BNP in Banff and Buchan - suggesting that the result may best be explained by some curious local element which escapes my ken at this inscrutable distance. However, as a helpful mustelid has pointed out, all is not quite what it seems on the basis of the BNP figures. The National Front also stood in the North East region this time around, but nowhere else in the country. While the 640 votes it polled are easily overlooked in national terms (and I did precisely this), all of these votes were from the North East Region. When this divided racist vote is combined, National Front and BNP, the North East cast 2,565 votes for racist parties - overleaping the others as the pre-eminent fascist-supporting part of the country. While this bloc vote fell in 2011, the decrease was only in the magnitude of a couple of hundred.

In any case, it is cheering to see that the villains got the bum's rush all across the country, deserted by over a third of those Scots who supported them in 2007 and crashing to less than 1% of support nationally.  A re-elected SNP majority, the Labour Party crushed, the Liberals confounded, the Tories stymied and the BNP rapidly atrophying across the nation? As my classically effusive Scottish grandfather might have said, with a fond twinkle, "Not bad".


  1. Of course this time the the equally vile National Front was also present on the regional lists. I haven't looked at the figures, though.

  2. So, with these pleasing results and the BNP's dreadful showing across England in local council elections, what do you say to the suggestion that a Tory(-led) government talking about immigration caps, and reemphasising the general move away from multiculturalism, has effectively vaccinated what to many voters is, whether you agree or not, an issue they felt the previous government at Westminster didn't take seriously enough? Immigration itself has hardly gone away, as in practice the government is doing very little; neither is the economy exactly booming sufficient to ease the anxieties of those who are perhaps most likely to blame immigrants for their own woes. This is my explanation for the results in England anyway, but in Scotland perhaps the generally cheerier outlook of the SNP campaign, relative to the doommongering of Labour, may in itself have eased worries about immigration and other social changes; or perhaps the SNP have simply managed to transfer British nationalist loyalties into more inclusive Scottish nationalist ones. What do you reckon?

  3. That's a fair point, Legal Weasel, which I admit I'd overlooked by just examining the overall national results. Significantly, the National Front only stood in the North East, and their 640 national votes were all cast there. Added to the BNP (think of it as the racist fuckwit bloc) takes the North Easters up to 2,565 votes in total - which would reverse the orderings, making the region the pre-eminent fascist-supporting part of the country, in line with the Banff & Buchanshire results from 2010. This is a poorer result than 2007, but only by a much slimmer margin of a couple of hundred.

  4. Philosophical Zombie,

    I sense a certain parallel with our previous discussions about automatic early release. At one point, I made the somewhat cynical point that the present arrangement rather obscurely serve two functions, combining practical amelioration of penalties with tougher surface appearances ("You shall go to prison for three years"). I'd concede, recognition and "tough" verbiage undoubtedly will have an influence on some voters, whatever the real practice of the government.

    The issue of transfers is an interesting one, and a young eco-leftie acquaintance of mine once analysed the SNP in precisely those terms - corralling all of racist-nationalist loons into a single tent and diverting their energies into other things, including pro-immigration and an explicit disavowal of "ethnic nationalism". I vociferously contested this proposition, for a number of reasons. Perhaps most compellingly, there is actually same data available about how Scottish voters transferred between constituency and region, based on 2007's single paper debacle. I've not looked at all of the data across the country (available here) but in Glasgow Govan as was, most of the BNP 2nd votes actually came from folk who were voting Labour in the constituency. It is also worth adding that the SNP did astonishingly well generally in the North East - which might make your SNP transfer thesis somewhat questionable.

  5. Interesting blog. As someone who was paid to count.. I was appalled by the number of BNP ballot papers in the environs of Montrose

  6. I don't think this is really worth exploring. While it's disappointing that there are idiots out there who'll vote for the BNP the numbers are so small they're not really worth the effort to try forming an analysis.

    It does concern me that there is race hate which every so often manifests itself in some poor bugger being beaten up but the culprits are invariably ill-educated, ill-informed and thugs who probably pick on lots of other people every other weekend.

    Years ago there was a fascist pocket in the northeast and I expect the same personnel are involved. It's really not appealing to think about them or to try and explore the flabby mash that comprises their brains.

  7. Yes, the analogy with early release makes sense. Again, I would wish to encourage honesty rather than cynicism from our politicians, so it seems a point in the SNP's favour that they are explictly in favour of immigration, rather than merely pretending not to be, as with Labour and the Tories. You're surely not surprised at the Labour/BNP crossover though? I thought that was very well established wherever they've done well in Britain. It makes perfect sense that voters would switch easily between one unionist party claiming to stand for the working classes generally and another unionist party claiming to stand for the white working classes specifically. I would expect less crossover with the far more cosmopolitan SNP.

    My sense is that the SNP, in recent years, have done a good job of moving away from the idea of supporting independence as an anti-English or anti-British reaction; I certainly seem to encounter a lot more positive nationalism these days. I was at school with a chap, now an SNP MSP, whose main pastime in those days was drawing pictures of a certain Russian linesman hanging from a gibbet. That sort of sentiment seems much less in evidence than it used to be; or perhaps it's just that I'm not at school anymore...

    Anyway, it's possible that there's a lot of longing around for nation-based identities, and that the SNP have captured and benignly channelled most but not quite all of this, leaving a rump of BNP types.

  8. You are assuming all of the BNP/NF voters in Banff and Buchan are Scottish.

    There are a lot of English folk who live and work there, are part of the oil industry. I've hard the unfortunate experience of meeting a few of them while riding the East Coast train: one who wore a National Front tee shirt, another who had an Adolf Hitler ringtone on his phone, and a third with a shaved head decorated by swastikas.

    I'm sure that there are Scots in the region with the same odious delusions.

    But all of the people in the UK that I have run across who were blatant fascists were, for some curious reason, associated with the oil and gas industry there.

  9. Whilst I agree with some of Doug's comments on your link post, farmers are not 'behind the door'.

    I live in a farming community and they're well known for voting Tory, regardless of age. It's taken John Swinney some years to address this yet I know they say one thing and do another.

    It's true I've yet to see anything but a white farmer but I know a couple who have various races in their family and have been most welcoming.

    Not all pensioners - including farmers - are racist because 'we're old'. Maybe part of the problem in farming communities is that they're trying to protect the ethics of their practices since, for example, the majority of chicken sold in this country is now halal.

    That's not the problem of the Jewish or Muslim community of course. The problem is the Westminster government/EU who refuse to label chicken products as such.

    Just a few notes from my own community.

  10. Anonymous

    I expect BNP supporters can be from all kinds of backgrounds, some native-born Scots included. Of course people who have the right to vote in Scotland may convincingly argue they are Scottish irrespective of where they started out from.

    What is an Adolf Hitler ringtone? Deutschland Uber Alles or Springtime for Hitler? The mind boggles.

  11. Look, calling the linesman under advisement "Russian" is like calling a Taff a Sassenach. He was Azerbaijani. And, while I'm arguing with PZ(even though he clearly has his head screwed on the right way)...England is an ancient and occasionally respectable nation with which Scotland is currently at peace, as I have remarked elswhere. Britain is not remotely respectable, and I feel no shame whatever at being explicitly and outspokenly anti-British.

  12. My apologies to the linesman in question. I always enjoyed the story about what he said on his deathbed. Asked how he'd been so sure the ball crossed the line, he is said to have replied: "Stalingrad". May well be an urban myth of course, but quite a good one anyway.

  13. Is it some possible Orange order vote in lieu of there never going to be a Tory elected?

  14. Just something to throw into your number crunching Lallands:

    The BNP polled 0.78% of the regional ballot.

    1 seat out of the 129 in the Scottish Parliament is equivalent to 0.78% of the seats.

    Point being, if the Scottish Parliament was purely proportional - or even if the 56 regional seats were delivered on a national (instead of regional) level - the BNP would be represented.

    In fact, so would a lot of parties: http://www.betternation.org/2011/05/sp11-under-sainte-lague/#comment-7911

    I have a spreadsheet, if you are interested...

  15. Obliged for the comments, particularly those affording an otherwise unavailable insight into the North East (Lena, Ladybird, Subrosa).

    Philosophical Zombie,

    Not surprised by Labour-BNP transfers - however there is a loose idea floating around, drawing much of its strength from a rather crude account of nationalism - that implies that BNP-SNP transfers are more probable. Just a touch of rebuttal, from me!


    Interesting. Although I didn't factor the thought into this post, I did wonder when I was formulating it, how a pan-national region would have shaken out, and what it might do to British Nationalist fortunes.

  16. 'there is a loose idea floating around, drawing much of its strength from a rather crude account of nationalism - that implies that BNP-SNP transfers are more probable.'

    Perhaps part of the reason for the poor showing of the NF/BNP in Scotland is that people in Scotland who might have within them a susceptability to racist ultra nationalism which unltimately ends up as fascism are able to find an outlet for the expression of such incohate feelings and beliefs in the less malign politics of the SNP.

    Both political movements have in common a simple, over arching answer to all political problems. With Scottish nationalism it's independence, with fascism it's to blame immigrants/Muslims/blacks/Jews.