Brussels Sprouts: Scotland’s MEPs and The Democratic Deficit

Everyone’s seen the headlines: “UKIP surge to victory”, “Europe lurches rightward”, “We’re all doomed”. Ok, I made the last one up but there’s a fair chance the Daily Mail will use it at some point in the next six months. The point is, these are just a snapshot of the type of press coverage devoted to the recent European elections. However, how much do most of us really know about the six elected officials Scotland has just selected to represent us in the European Parliament? Not very much, this writer suspects.

So in tribute to Great Britain’s fine tradition of incredibly shallow, needlessly sensationalist journalism here is qmunicate’s borderline libellous guide to the men and women you’ve just sent to Brussels.

Ian Duncan, Conservative

Though originally from Perthshire, Dr Ian Duncan has a PHD in Palaeontology from the University of Bristol, which must be useful in a party full of fossils. He campaigned on a platform of offering an In-Out referendum within three years, making him the worst hokey-cokey candidate in the history of time. However he did manage to secure 17.22% of the popular vote, making him the most popular Conservative in Scotland since about the mid-18th century. With six out of ten Scots wanting a referendum on British membership of the EU, Duncan has pledged to try to renegotiate Britain’s role as well representing the interests of everyone from “fishermen in the Shetland Islands and farmers in Dumfries, to those working in the financial sector in Edinburgh.”

David Coburn, UKIP

Surprisingly for this otherwise most resolutely leftist of countries, UKIP’s David Coburn will be replacing the Liberal Democrats’ George Lyon as the “enjoy it while you can” candidate from 2014. Counting art dealer, City trader and freight company owner amongst his past professions, Coburn bucks the trend of Scottish MEPs by actually having done a day’s work outside politics. A self-styled “hardline libertarian” (code for “doesn’t give a fuck about the poor but at least wants to make pot legal and doesn’t hate gay people too much”), he’s less outwardly bonkers than UKIP’s former Scottish Leader, Christopher Monckton. Nonetheless Coburn campaigned as an Edinburgh-based businessman only for press interrogation to reveal that he lived in Kensington and couldn’t name the Scottish Health Secretary. As an obsessive re-tweeter and Ayn Rand fan headed to Brussels and Strasbourg with the explicit goal of decimating the organisation that now pays his wages, he is sure to be a productive servant to his constituents.

Ian Hudgton, SNP

The longest serving SNP MEP has been spending most of his time in Belgium since winning a by-election in 1998. Hudgton sits in the European Parliament as a member of the cumbersomely named Green-European Free Alliance Group while serving on committees on Fisheries and Consumer Protection. Scandal free and apparently competent, he’s addressed parliamentary sessions on everything from fighting Sexual Exploitation and Prostitution to the European Steel Industry. In the last six months, filed expenses for his travel and subsistence expenditures came to over £30 000, which, unfortunately for the roving qmunicate hack, he has failed to squander on cocaine and hookers. Nonetheless, qmunicate would like to suggest he use some of these funds to redo his website; a garish, yellow monstrosity last updated when Pacman was popular.

Alyn Smith, SNP

Unable to correctly spell Alan, Mr Smith has served as the SNP’s Agricultural spokesperson and sits on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. An ex-lawyer, Smith has strong links to the Nordic countries and the Arabian Peninsula as well as serving as President of the youth wings of the SNP. He once threatened to ban Justin Bieber and Celine Dion from Scotland if Canada removed ex-pat favourites like Irn Bru and Marmite from shelves. The normally apolitical qmunicate suggest you re-elect this man until the end of time, but only as long as he promises to make good on his threat. His Twitter bio suggests that he mixes a fine vodka martini, somewhat undermining his nationalist credentials by failing to endorse a more suitably Scottish beverage. However, with the coveted Scottish Farmers Magazine ‘Outstanding Contribution to Scottish Agriculture’ award on his mantelpiece we daresay he is doing his bit.

David Martin, Labour

Sitting in the European Parliament since 1984, when the EU only had ten member states, Martin is a time-served Labour factotum. As an MEP he fought against the far-reaching ACTA agreement, which he claimed failed to protect civil liberties. That particular battle ended in defeat, but we’re going to get a common mobile phone charger, so who says the EU is inefficient, bureaucratic and insufficiently accountable to the people?

His wife, Lorraine Davidson, is a journalist who has worked at STV, the BBC and is now with The Times. She was responsible for knifing Gordon Brown whilst working as a spin-doctor for the Labour Party in the mid-2000s (figuratively, obviously – he looks like he’d kick your head in if you tried it on for real). Martin himself has solid socialist credentials, campaigning for human rights worldwide and pushing for tighter controls on the arms trade.

Catherine Stihler, Labour

The sole female Scottish MEP is a St Andrew graduate with an MA in Geography and International Relations. Having served as President of the St Andrews Student Association in the mid-nineties as well as being the Young Labour delegate to the National Executive Committee during the same period, she’s as close to a career politician as it is possible to get, first being elected to the European Parliament in 1999 at the age of just 25. This makes her the most interesting person to come out of Bellshill since Ally McCoist. You can tell she’s down with the kids cos she has a Flickr page, albeit one that is mostly full of pictures of people in high-vis jackets and old, bald, white men. She’s a loyal party drone, attacking the SNP over its failure to reveal details of its legal advice with regards to the status of an independent Scotland in Europe, but she also leads a campaign to get more libraries free wi-fi, so that’s nice.

So there we have it folks, the representatives you chose. You’ve probably never heard of them by name, you don’t know what they campaign for and only a third of you bothered to turn out and vote anyhow. But beneath the piss-taking there is a serious message here: Europe is on the brink of colossal change and it’s only by learning about the matters at hand and pestering your MPs, MSPs and MEPs that you can hope to change it for the better. Good luck, and good riddance.

[Max Sefton]

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