VOTERS go to the polls on Thursday to elect Scotland’s six Members of the European Parliament – but if previous elections are anything to go by, up to twice as many will stay at home.
The turnout for European elections is notoriously poor. At the last one in 2009, Scotland recorded the lowest proportion of people voting anywhere in the UK – 28.5 per cent.
The Scottish contingent of MEPs is made up of two Scottish Nationalists, two Labour, one Conservative and one Liberal Democrat.
The Lib Dem, George Lyon, is widely expected to lose his seat because of his party’s poor showing in the polls.
And the SNP looks in pole position to get a third MEP elected in his place, although First Minister Alex Salmond has warned there is a risk the seat could go to the right-wing UK Independence Party.
Labour’s David Martin and Catherine Stihler are almost certain to be re-elected along with the SNP’s Ian Hudghton and Alyn Smith. Veteran Tory Struan Stevenson has stood down, but the Conservatives’ lead candidate, Edinburgh-based Ian Duncan, is likely to be elected in his place.
Edinburgh councillor Maggie Chapman is the number one candidate for the Greens, who have never had an MEP from Scotland.
Nigel Farage’s Ukip is predicted to do well south of the Border, with some polls suggesting it could outdo both Labour and the Conservatives.
But at the 2009 election Ukip recorded its lowest share of the vote in Scotland. Polls here put the party around ten per cent. Its Scottish candidate is David Coburn.
Per Johansson, head of the European Parliament office in Edinburgh, said he was hoping for improved turnout.
He said there plenty of reasons why the public should be interested – including the fact that the MEPs elected on Thursday will for the first time help to choose Brussels’ most powerful official.
He said: “It’s important that people use their democratic right to vote. The European Parliament is involved in many laws which affect people’s day-to-day lives, whether it’s their working life, their health and wellbeing or the environment. The other thing that’s different this time is that after these elections the European Parliament will be electing the European Commission president, which is a very significant post.”
Across the 28 countries of the EU, there are more than 380 million voters eligible to vote in the European Parliament election for a total of 751 MEPs. The votes will not be counted until Sunday evening, once the polls have closed in all other EU countries. Edinburgh’s ballot boxes will be kept under lock and key until the Meadowbank count.