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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Parties declare Euro candidates
The European Parliament in Strasbourg
Elections to the European Parliament take place in June
Ten parties are to contest the European election in Scotland on 10 June.

Nominations closed on Thursday afternoon, with all 10 parties fielding a full slate of seven candidates.

They include Labour, the Scottish National Party, the Tories, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party.

The others are the UK Independence Party, the British National Party, Operation Christian Vote and Scottish Wind Watch.

Almost four million people in Scotland will be given the opportunity to cast their votes in the European election.

Ballot box

The poll will choose seven new MEPs who will represent the views of the nation of Scotland in the European parliament.

At the last election in 1999 turnout in the UK was 24%, the lowest in the European Union.

Just 988,310 voters north of the border made it to the ballot box to cast their votes.

One condition of the Nice Treaty in 2000 was that the total number of MEPs in the existing EU states should be reduced to accommodate the additional MEPs required to represent the 10 new member states.

As a result, the UK's total has fallen from 87 to 78 MEPs.

For Scotland the seat count has gone down from eight to seven, which represents 9% of the UK's European Parliament seats.

Domestically, Scotland is currently divided into 72 constituencies. However, in Europe the country is classed as one big constituency.

Results from the 1999 poll, which used a system of proportional representation for the first time, were:

  • Conservatives - 195,296 (19.8%) votes achieving two MEPs

  • Labour - 283,490 (28.7%) votes achieving three MEPs

  • Liberal Democrats - 96,971 (9.8%) votes achieving one MEP

  • SNP - 268,528 (27.2%) votes achieving two MEPs.

The Greens, the UKIP, Scottish Socialist Party and the BNP also fielded candidates but did not win any seats.

The campaign highlighted party differences but, unusually, it prompted candidates to speak with one voice on one particular matter - voter apathy.

Early in June 1999, a cross-party of European candidates signed a joint appeal at a ceremony in Edinburgh calling on "women and men, young and old" to participate in the election.

The statement read: "We believe the issues involved are important, and affect everyone in their daily lives.

"We take different views on how these issues may be resolved, but we are united in urging all citizens to express their views through the ballot box."

EU constitution

Such was the importance placed on reducing voter apathy, the SNP called on Premier League clubs to remind fans due to travel to Prague for a Scotland European qualifier game the day before the 1999 poll to register for postal votes.

Halting voter apathy could become a battleground issue again this time, but matters of a local, national and European nature will also play their part.

Areas of debate will surround Prime Minister Tony Blair's announcement in April that there would be a referendum on the EU constitution after the next UK general election.

Ballot box
Less than 25% of voters went to the ballot box in 1999
The recent enlargement of the union from 15 to 25 countries has not received favourable press at home and could become the hook upon which the issue of immigration is hung.

In Scotland, the subject of immigrants has been promoted as a positive step by the First Minister, Jack McConnell, who is concerned about the gradual fall in the population of the country.

However, the consequences of enlargement could pose difficult questions for the future of development funding for the Highlands and Islands.

With the number of EU members growing, the pot of money has to go that bit further.

Unlike in 1999, combating global terrorism has become a European-wide agenda item which candidates may seize upon.

Other issues surfacing in the campaign are expected to include environmental protection laws, workers' rights and MEPs' salaries and expenses.

Polling day in Scotland is on a Thursday - but because most other European countries vote on a Sunday, the Scottish count will not take place until the Monday.

Unlike in England, there are no local or mayoral elections north of the border.




SEE ALSO:
What the parties stand for
14 May 04  |  Scotland


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