The candidates from overseas hoping to win a council seat

Voters go to the polls on Thursday to elect Scotland's 32 local authorities. Picture: Ellen Relander/JP
Voters go to the polls on Thursday to elect Scotland's 32 local authorities. Picture: Ellen Relander/JP
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It’s fair to say the average Scot is not engaged with municipal politics. The last council elections in 2012 attracted a nationwide turnout of just 39 per cent.

In fact, turnout only rose above 50 per cent in the three island council areas of Shetland, Orkney and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Danish-born Christina Larsen is standing for the SNP in the Irvine South ward. Picture: Contributed

Danish-born Christina Larsen is standing for the SNP in the Irvine South ward. Picture: Contributed

But while some Scots may turn their backs on town hall issues, others, including those who have chosen to make Scotland their home, have embraced the process by standing for election.

The Scotsman asked four candidates originally from overseas why they got involved in local politics.

CHRISTINA LARSEN (SNP candidate for Irvine South in North Ayrshire)

“I moved to Scotland with my family when I was six - and I couldn’t speak a word of English,” said Larsen, who was born in Taastrup, Denmark. “I’ve been here 38 years now.

“This is my first time standing for election. I joined the SNP in August 2014. The independence campaign was a political awakening. As my mum was a Danish citizen, she couldn’t vote in the UK - so politics was never spoken about in our house when I was growing up.

“I’ve found my own way in politics. I wasn’t told how to vote by older generations in my family, and I think that’s a benefit.

“It was only when Henrik Larrson signed for Celtic that people began to notice my name - even though it’s spelled differently. I was always being asked if we were related.

Christina added: “I feel I can offer a lot to local politics. I would like to see more women become involved at this level. I was a stay at home mum for 16 years, but it’s never too late to start taking an interest and helping your community.”

AUDE BOUBAKER-CALDER (Lib Dem candidate for West Fife and Coastal Villages)

“I wanted to join a fair, tolerant party that supports the European Union,” said Boubaker-Calder, who moved across the North Sea from Belgium after meeting her Scottish husband while working in Brussels.

“In Belgium, we tend to be a bit more involved in politics as voting is compulsory. However, in Scotland, and the UK in general, people are more passionate when they talk about politics. Involvement in Belgium is more subtle.

Aude, who lives in Dunfermline, added: “I’m someone who likes to be involved in their community. I want to make a positive difference.

“Education is my priority in the Dunfermline area. We have issues affecting the catchment areas of schools, and rising school rotas. Everyone deserves the best start in life.”

PIOTR TEODOROWSKI (Labour candidate for Torry & Ferryhill in Aberdeen)

“Sometimes people ask me: ‘Do you go back home for Christmas?’ and I say ‘No, I stay here’. I consider Aberdeen to be my home, although I’ll probably never get used to the weather,” said Piotr, who moved from Bydgoszcz, Poland, in 2011.

“I’ve always been a local guy – interested in what’s happening on the street next to me, not as much in what happens in London or Edinburgh,” he explained in an interview with i News.

“I’ve always wanted to work with my neighbours, people I can get to know well.”

Although he was able to vote in 2014’s independence referendum, he decided to abstain as he could not decide which side to support – and the felt the decision was too momentous to take a chance.

However, he supports his party’s policy of opposing Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a second referendum.

“They say: ‘Not another one, I can’t handle any more’. People are tired of elections and debates about the constitution, they would like to come back to the usual business.”

KERSTIN ROMANO (Green candidate for Dunfermline Central in Fife)

“I grew up in a very politically aware family and it’s always something I’ve taken an interest in,” said Kirstin, who grew up near Hanover in Germany and moved to Scotland in 1998. “As a student I became involved with the Green party in Germany, but family life took over and I took a step back.

“It was during the independence debate I decided to become involved again - also my family was fed up with me shouting at the TV.”

Kerstin, who now lives in Carnock, near Dunfermline, has long been involved in community events and believes standing for election is a natural step. “I’ve been on the community council, the gala committee - I’m keen to be involved with local issues,” she added. “Living in a small village and growing up in a small town, I’ve always had a strong awareness that community politics is important. You need to find common purpose and bring together the views of everybody living in a certain place.”

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