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Seven out of ten Scots 'back Ukip policy on immigration'

UKIP policies to curb immigration, cut overseas aid and crack down on benefits claimants are backed by a majority of Scots, a surprise new poll suggests, despite the repeated failure of Nigel Farage's anti-EU party to make a breakthrough north of the Border.

The survey shows nearly seven out of 10 Scots back stricter immigration controls, a key pledge in Ukip's manifesto for tomorrow's European elections.

Just over half want international aid budgets to be cut, while six out of 10 people say benefits should only be available to those who have lived in the UK for at least five years.

The findings show Conservative voters are the most likely to endorse Ukip's manifesto promises.

But there is also significant backing from SNP voters, despite Alex Salmond's European election campaign pitch that tomorrow's poll offers a chance to reject Ukip's "nasty politics". Labour and LibDem voters are less likely to favour Ukip policies, the poll found.

The survey was conducted by pollsters Survation for Dundee University's Five Million Questions project, which aims to increase public and academic engagement in the referendum debate.

More than 1000 Scots aged over 16 were questioned from May 9 to May 12.

Michael Marra, the director of Five Million Questions, said: "This data shows that Ukip's comparatively poor performance in Scotland is not due to a lack of support for their policies among large sections of Scottish voters.

"The idea that Ukip's popularity in much of the rest of the UK represents a fundamental divergence in British social attitudes appears to be based on little evidence. This is especially important at the moment given the context of the referendum. There is a striking level of support for Ukip policies among Scottish Conservative and SNP voters. It appears from this data that the principle difference is in party affiliation rather than social attitude."

Overall, 68.4 per cent of those surveyed backed Ukip's headline pledge to impose stricter immigration controls.

Among Conservatives, the figure rose to 84.4 per cent. The policy was also backed by 68.8 per cent of SNP voters, 67.5 per cent of Labour voters and 60.2 per cent of LibDems.

Mr Farage's drive to leave the EU was supported by 24.7 per cent of voters across Scotland, including 40.7 per cent of Conservatives, 31.5 per cent of Nationalists, 18.3 per cent of Labour voters and 11.8 per cent of LibDems.

Pulling out of European human rights legislation - which is embedded in Scots law - was backed by 60.9 per cent of Tories, 39.6 per cent of Nationalists, 26 per cent of Labour voters and 25.3 per cent of LibDems.

Among other Ukip policies, nearly half of respondents wanted inheritance tax abolished and believed local families should have first call on social housing.

Six out of 10 said those on unemployment benefits should be enrolled on work schemes, while four out of 10 said new immigrants should be denied access to state education, social housing, and - except in emergencies - the NHS for five years after settling in Scotland.

In tomorrow's elections, the SNP are favourites to win a third seat at the expense of the LibDems.

Mr Salmond has sought to turn the campaign into a contest between the SNP - whose number three candidate is Scots-Asian businesswoman Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik - and Ukip. Speaking on the campaign trail yesterday he said there was "massive opposition to Ukip in Scotland, and it is really important that we keep them out of Scottish politics".

Last week he said there was "no place in Scotland" for Ukip's "intolerant message".

David Coburn, Ukip's lead European candidate in Scotland, said: "These findings are encouraging and it's what we are hearing all over Scotland. Ukip's values are Scotland's values."

Labour's election co-ordinator James Kelly said: "These fascinating results should give all parties pause to reflect on the eve of a national election. Clearly, the SNP and Ukip share the politics of division and grievance and we need to understand why voters are attracted to those messages."

Scottish LibDem lead Euro candidate George Lyon said: "It is no surprise that Liberal Democrats voters were least convinced by Ukip's small-minded view of the world.

"If you reject Ukip's nasty strand of nationalism, if you want Scotland in Britain and in Europe then you need to back the Liberal Democrats."

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: "The SNP constantly tries to fabricate divisions between attitudes in Scotland and England, and it's clear from this study - as well as many which have gone before - that those divisions do not exist."

Those surveyed were not told the policies were being put forward by Ukip.

SNP candidate Ms Ahmed-Sheikh said: "This poll is further proof that the anti-Europe, Ukip-driven agenda of the Westminster parties is out of step with Scotland - less than one quarter of those polled supported leaving the European Union."

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