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Salmond's mistake was to make 'nasty Nigel' the story

UKIP'S showing in Scotland lagged a long way behind its performance across the rest of the Britain.

But securing its first seat in any Scottish election was remarkable.

The party's 10.4 per cent of the vote was exactly double their share in the 2009 European Parliament election and in recent Holyrood by-elections the party has failed even to match that. Last June, in Aberdeen Donside, it claimed 4.8 per cent of the vote and in the contest for Cowdenbeath earlier this year it slipped to 3 per cent.

Even then, though, it was a mistake to assume Ukip was somehow an exclusively English phenomenon. With little organisation and hardly any activists on the ground, the party was still beating the Greens and Lib Dems in those by-elections. What's more, as a poll last week showed, a majority of Scots backed Ukip policies to curb immigration, cut foreign aid and crack down on benefits, if the word Ukip was mentioned.

Alex Salmond claimed the party had been boosted by "the wall-to-wall media coverage of Ukip that has been beamed into Scotland". However, the First Minister was guilty of making Ukip the story with his attacks on the "nasty politics" of Nigel Farage.

Mr Salmond gambled on the SNP winning a third seat and holding off the Ukip challenge. Such a result, he believed, would underline the chasm between a right-lurching England and left-of-centre Scotland.

In fact, despite an army of footsoldiers knocking on doors, the SNP's share of the vote fell back slightly from 2009 and, with Ukip grabbing the final Scottish seat, the First Minister's argument is less convincing.

The pro-UK parties have made much of this but it's hard to see their portrayal of the SNP and Ukip as part of a pan-European rise in nationalism lodging itself in the public mind either.

Given Ukip's limitless capacity for gaffes, they might also be wary of Nigel Farage's promise to become more involved in the independence debate.

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