DAVID Coburn is being tipped to win a seat in Holyrood, giving Ukip its first elected representative in the Scottish Parliament.

The prediction by Dr Malcolm Harvey, a research fellow at Aberdeen University, comes despite a series of embarrassing gaffes by the Eurosceptic politician.

Harvey, who also works for the Centre on Constitutional Change at Edinburgh University, said the Westminster government’s decision to hold the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union on June 23, could be boosting Ukip’s support – a concern David Cameron was warned about when setting the date for the vote so close after the Holyrood poll on May 5.

Coburn was elected as an MEP in Scotland in 2014 but failed to win the constituency of Falkirk at last year’s General Election, coming fourth of five candidates and losing his deposit with three per cent of the vote. For the Scottish Parliament election he has set his sights on the Highlands and Islands’ regional list, where he is his party’s lead candidate and where support for Ukip is highest in Scotland.

Harvey used Strathclyde University Professor John Curtice’s poll of polls, the average of the last four polls conducted by BMG, Panelbase, Survation and YouGov between April 6 and April 20, and a new election forecasting tool produced by Cutbot.

Writing in our election guide today, Harvey says: “If we assume that each region sees the same ratio between that region’s list vote and the national list vote as it did in 2011, we can adapt the national list poll figure to project region-specific vote shares.

“For Highlands and Islands, that’d likely give the SNP around 45 per cent, Labour 10 per cent, Conservatives 16 per cent, Lib Dems 13 per cent, Greens eight per cent and Ukip seven per cent.

“On that basis, and given the constituency seat division (seven to the SNP, one to the Lib Dems) we can establish the Conservatives would likely take the first and fourth allocated seats, with Labour taking the second and the Greens’ John Finnie taking the third.

“Ukip Scotland’s leader David Coburn would be fairly comfortably elected in fifth.”

Harvey added: “The thing that is helpful to Ukip is the predominance of the European issue at the moment because of the referendum.

“It gives them something to talk about, to keep their vote up and makes them a major player. Depending on how the other parties do in the Highlands and Islands, Ukip could take six per cent, and at that level they should take a seat.”

Coburn is never far from controversy and has been described as the most offensive politician in Scotland. Last year he was forced to apologise to the SNP international development minister Humza Yousaf, when he compared him to convicted extremist Abu Hamza, saying it was a joke.

Ukip’s parliamentary candidate Tim Wilson quit the party in protest, describing Coburn’s comment as “an Islamophobic insult” which was “simply not acceptable”, while EU President Martin Schulz said the remarks were “not worthy of any elected member”.

The previous year Coburn muddled Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s name at a European election hustings, referring to her as Pashmina, Jasmine and Tamzin before calling her “love”, “dear” and “honey”.

Earlier this month Coburn was forced to fend off calls from 10 Ukip activists to be replaced as lead spokesman in Scotland after they claimed he was damaging the party’s chances and complaining of “dysfunctional management”.

An SNP spokesman said: “This analysis underscores the crucial importance of the regional vote in determining the overall balance of the parliament.

“While some parties have suggested that people take a flutter on their second vote, this analysis shows that this risks letting Ukip in by the back door – in exactly the same way that David Coburn was elected to the European Parliament in 2014."

Is David Coburn about to be a new MSP in the Highlands and Islands?