Ukip’s Scotland operation falls apart

Ukip's attempt get a foothold in Scottish politics appeared to be falling apart today, after six of its nine European candidates quit.

Ukip Scotland leader Lord Monckton was among the candidates who withdrew from the selection process, leaving just three of the nine candidates on the ballot paper sent to members actually standing in the election.

Quite why the party lost nearly two-thirds of its candidates is still unclear, although unconfirmed reports of allegations of "dirty tricks" suggest a tumultuous situation behind the scenes.

Ukip chairman Mike Scott-Hayward said an extraordinary general meeting would be called to explain what happened to members.

The row does not bode well for Ukip's ability to replicate its success in England north of the border.

The party does not have a single elected member in Scotland and Nigel Farage's visits have triggered fierce student protests which at one point forced police to protect him by barricading him in a pub.

The sense that Ukip had its first chance to secure a Scottish MEP in next year's elections sparked a fierce contest to get on the shortlist.

Seven of the nine candidates on the ballot paper sent to members have withdrawn, although one is understood to have changed his mind.

The decision apparently centres on concerns that procedures were not followed and that complaints about irregularities were not listened to.

David Coburn, Ukip's London chairman, emerged as the winner.

There was better news for the party in England, where Paul Sykes, one of Britain's wealthiest men, promised to do "whatever it takes" to get the party to triumph in the European elections.

"I believe we have one last chance to stop the gradual erosion of our national independence. And that chance comes with the European elections," he said.

"If, as I hope and believe, Ukip score a stunning national victory, then the leaders of the other main parties will have no choice but to abandon their slavish support for the EU.

"Nigel Farage and Ukip are the last best hope for Britain. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to propel them to victory next year."

Sykes, who is estimated to be worth £650 million, donated £1.5 million to Ukip's 2004 European election campaign, when it increased its number of seats from three to 12.

"There's only one game in town now and that's Ukip," he told the BBC this morning

Sykes was a former Tory party backer who distanced himself from the party after John Major signed the Maastricht treaty in 1991.

He selectively backed eurosceptic candidates in 1997 and briefly returned to the Tory fold under William Hague before being expelled a year later for his hardline views on Europe.

"Paul Sykes has a long record of defending British democracy," Farage said.

"His involvement in this campaign is a significant boost for Ukip and will help us to cause our intended earthquake in British politics in the European elections next May."

Ukip desperately needs significant wins at the European elections as a spring board to general election success in 2015.