Here's shameful confession. When the online list of BNP members was published illegally earlier this year I sneaked a look, then went further and performed the postal code search to see who lived near me. Unhappily several did, and there, on the screen, were their names, addresses, home and mobile phone numbers and email addresses. For a split second, only a second I promise, I was tempted to call them and ask them why they had joined. Then sanity returned to remind me that even looking at such a list, thereby breaching these people's privacy, was a low and uncivilised thing to do. Sorry.
But the curiosity has not left me. Why do these people, living in my area of the city, part of the same community and rubbing shoulders with the same people in the street, believe in such an extreme and repugnant set of policies? What horrors are they encountering that have so riled them into hatred? On going about my business, have I somehow failed to spot Hassidic Jews drinking babies' blood in Glasgow's Botanic Gardens, Eastern European plumbers pimping children in the supermarket, Jihadists beheading Alan from the ironmongers for selling un-Islamic curtain hooks, all whilst stepping over the drugged bodies of black youths and publicly copulating gay men? In which parallel universe do my local BNP supporters do their shopping, and what dystopia has so ruined their lives that would make them give their money to Nick Griffin?
A great deal of academic research has helped us trace the rise of the BNP in English regions of high deprivation and racial tension, highlighting the government's failure to address core issues that stoke a sense of grievance and imagined victimhood from the white working class. Such voters tell us, by supporting fascists, that they feel alienated and abandoned. Some of their anxieties may be justified but most of it is poppycock, since the "immigrants" they imagine are here to steal their livelihoods, culture and opportunities are fellow sufferers, feeling just as marginalised and abandoned as they do.
In these areas of tension, BNP voters are unsurprisingly poor, uneducated, frightened, and highly susceptible to coercion from Griffin's Cambridge-educated forked tongue. What, though, is the excuse for my fellow local souls turning to the hard right, including a few whose pleasant sandstone dwellings sit peacefully amongst mature lime trees, and whose worst social assault is a BMW car alarm going off in the night because a well-fed fox has jumped on it? What forms a racist when their lives are under neither economic nor social pressure? Perhaps we are about to find out.
A few weeks ago I wrote that I believed the British are not sufficiently stupid to return a BNP candidate in the forthcoming European elections. Subsequent polling in the last few days appears to be proving me wrong.
Even more worrying is that the party's sights have swivelled away from their tense, English heartlands of racial strife and are looking north.
The British National Party are currently campaigning hard in Scotland, openly declaring on their website and blogs that they hope to build on two things; the MPs' expenses scandal and the rise of Scottish nationalism. The former is an easy target, but the latter marks a sinister distortion.
Last Saturday in Clydebank, a BNP candidate handed out 2000 leaflets. Many people taking them would have of course instantly binned them. Some may have taken the leaflets home to read. Some definitely stopped to speak with the candidate. A few, allegedly, joined up. No-one, however, demonstrated, or set up a stall in opposition.
Reading the subsequent forums on and linked from the party's website makes the blood run cold, even taking into account (judging by The Scotsman's website) that a significant proportion of people who contribute to online forums seem to be fantasists. Several threads celebrated that Scotland was better at "keeping out immigrants" and that we should be proud of the rise again of our national pride.
This was tempered in other threads by equally disquieting posts declaring that the SNP are "after the Islamic vote", citing the contribution to the Scottish Islamic Foundation, and that former nationalists should now switch to the BNP to stop an independent Scotland ruled by sharia.
Despite being an abhorrent, hate-filled slug, Nick Griffin is a clever, highly educated man, and none of this insane warping of the independence debate is by chance. When given only short and rare opportunities to be questioned, such as during an interview on Sky news last week, Griffin comes across as a calm, professional politician. Griffin's views on interracial marriage, enforced repatriation and homosexuality are unlikely to play well to a public looking for fairness, justice and tolerance, hence that side of the BNP is kept markedly quiet, making sure the party's formal policy declarations remain as insubstantial as gossamer.
Hence it's a fair bet that most of the leaflet recipients in Clydebank know virtually nothing of the hidden wish list of the BNP that leaks out in error from time to time.
This is partly because Griffin and his political thugs are given so little chance to be tested, out from under their stone. Question Time last week, focusing on the European elections, included a UKIP member on its panel, but no BNP representative. Why not? Surely even one question from a black person in the audience about not being allowed to marry who they wished, or being exiled to a country they have never visited, would have been enough to rip the paper-thin mask of civility from the BNP's Janus face?
Griffin is sly enough to realise that our independence debate is already highly volatile and emotional, and as such has decided that we are prime targets for creating a new layer of scaremongering and anxiety-driven hate.
Watching BNP footage of Clydebank residents politely receiving leaflets has made me feel stupid for over-estimating our resistance to this vile manipulation. We are all free to vote for the party of our choice, but we must be absolutely sure we know what it stands for. They're not out to make the trains run on time.
Muriel Gray writing in the Scottish Sunday Herald