Security among issues making it unlikely Farage will campaign in Scotland – Tice

Nigel Farage is unlikely to campaign in Scotland ahead of next week’s General Election, his party’s chairman said, adding security issues after a “dangerous” visit are part of the reason why he has not travelled north.

Reform UK chairman Richard Tice said Mr Farage taking over as party leader and standing for election had put “turbo boosters” on its campaign.

But he said when the former Ukip leader had campaigned in Scotland previously, “it was dangerous, frankly”.

In 2013, Mr Farage had to be taken away in a police riot van after the Edinburgh pub where he was giving a press conference was surrounded by rowdy protesters.

Nigel Farage being escorted by police away from protesters shouting at him
Then Ukip leader Nigel Farage had to be taken away in a police riot van after protesters gathered outside a pub in Edinburgh where he was campaigning in 2013 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Speaking at a hotel near Falkirk on Wednesday, Mr Tice said Mr Farage has to “think very carefully” about security.

Asked if Mr Farage is afraid to come to Scotland, Mr Tice said the Reform leader is “incredibly busy”.

But he added that the “reality, unfortunately, for senior figures in the political climate, actually from a number of parties, but for Nigel, security and safety is a real issue, that is just the reality”.

Mr Tice added: “You have to look at that, you have to look at a whole range of issues and security is one of those.”

Reform UK is standing in all 57 seats in Scotland, with Mr Tice insisting that is “a reflection of the impetus, the hard work, the commitment that we as a party have got to Scotland”.

Richard Tice smiling, with both arms partially raised
Reform UK chairman Richard Tice said Nigel Farage had put ‘turbo boosters’ on the party’s election campaign (Lucy North/PA)

He told journalists he does “not know” if any of them support independence, although he said he would be “surprised” if they do.

Referring to his party’s candidates, Mr Tice added: “They’re all wonderful, some of them are a bit more bullish than others on some of the things they might do and say.”

Mr Tice himself made clear his belief that the debate over Scottish independence is “done” and “not on the table”.

He insisted: “I think that matter is settled, that is the clear will of the Scottish people.

“I think that is done, the focus for Scotland now must be on growth.

“The whole focus of anybody involved in managing Scotland should be on growth, growth, growth.”

He went on to say Reform UK’s “common sense” policies could see the party win more votes than the Conservatives across the UK.

Rishi Sunak’s Tories “have just sort of given up” in the campaign, Mr Tice claimed, adding: “They’re basically having a few bets.”

Meanwhile, he said Mr Farage becoming leader had boosted the Reform UK campaign, adding: “As I handed the baton of leadership over to Nigel, I knew that what would happen is that the turbo boosters would fire up, the rocket-boosters would take us to the next level – and that is exactly what has happened.”

He added that Reform believes it has “a really good chance” of securing more votes than the Tories, adding: “That’s because we are actually telling it as it is.”

He also said he is confident his party will not lose any of its deposits in Scotland – with candidates not having the £500 deposit they pay to stand returned if they secure less than 5% of the votes cast.

Asked how many deposits Reform UK will lose in Scotland, Mr Tice said: “None. You’ve got to be an optimist in politics.”

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said Mr Tice had made an “astonishing admission” when he said he does not know if any Reform UK candidates back independence.

Claiming this will “rightly dismay pro-UK voters”, Mr Hoy added: “We already knew there are Reform candidates standing in Scotland who back independence, and now we know why: because Richard Tice and co didn’t even bother to check.

“In key seats across Scotland where it’s neck-and-neck between the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP, a vote for Reform would mean a nationalist victory.

“Worse still, that Reform candidate may be as committed to breaking up the UK as the SNP.”