EXCLUSIVE: Ian Duncan on taking a role in Brexit and a seat in the Lords

Written by Dr Ian Duncan on 6 July 2017 in Comment

Writing exclusively for Holyrood, the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Ian Duncan responds to allegations his appointment was undemocratic

Ian Duncan - credit European parliament audiovisual

The morning after the election, following a whirlwind campaign that had brought me within 21 votes of taking the seat of Perth & North Perthshire, wiping nearly 10,000 votes from the majority of the incumbent MP, I was pretty much done in. ‘Like the little boy who stubbed his toe in the dark.

'Too old to cry, but it hurt too much to laugh,’ as Abraham Lincoln once described his own defeat.

By Monday morning I was on a flight to Strasbourg to resume my duties as an MEP. Tuesday I had a call from No 10 Downing Street, offering me a job.


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By Wednesday, after soul searching and a heart-to-heart with my husband, I had accepted a government job that I knew would change my life. A week is indeed a long time in politics.

To say that my appointment was not warmly applauded by the Scottish Government would be a slight understatement.

I had Mike Russell MSP clutch me by the hand in Edinburgh airport and recite a whole verse of Burns at me (before tweeting about it!). My appointment was raised in Prime Minister’s Question Time. The First Minister declared it an ‘absolute abomination’.  And all that before my first day.

I suspect most folks reading this article can work out why I took the job; an opportunity to be part of the Brexit negotiations. I voted remain, but I know fine well that we are leaving the EU and that Scotland must get the best deal possible. Is there anything that matters more to Scotland in the years to come? Of course I took the job. It matters.

I spent five years working for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, two years working for BP (I’m a qualified geologist), two years working for the Scottish Refugee Council, eight years representing the Scottish Parliament in Brussels, two years clerking the Scottish Parliament’s European & External Relations Committee, three years representing Scotland in the European Parliament (during which I was voted the 10th most influential MEP on environmental policy and the 6th most influential on energy policy).

I was vice president of the Parliament’s intergroup on LGBT issues, vice president of the Parliament’s group focusing upon spirits and whisky. I chaired one of the Parliament’s working groups on rural affairs. I was a parliamentary delegate to each of the last three UN Climate Change gatherings.

And for the cybernats who clog up my twitter feed, I led the European Parliament’s oversight of the last Catalan referendum and was invited to do so again (but events have overtaken me). I did not feel unqualified in accepting the offer.

There will be those for whom the House of Lords is an affront. OK. The UK has an appointed second chamber. So does Canada. Many states appoint representatives to their second chamber. If you are offended by the title, don’t use it. Just call me Dr Duncan. It’s how my mother addressed the last Christmas card she sent me.

The years ahead will be a challenge. Of that there is no doubt. Getting a deal that satisfies farmers and fishermen, financiers and energy producers, academics and small businesses, amongst everyone else who will be affected by Brexit, will not be straightforward.

A deal that recognises the contribution of EU nationals to our economy and to our society (as well as the contribution of Brits overseas) will also be necessary.

In the months ahead, my role will be to listen to each and every stakeholder. Every voice must be heard. Every concern appreciated. I will be do my best to sit with every organisation, every body, every representative of every sector who wants to speak, to make sure that no view is overlooked or passes unheard.

The Brexit negotiations are way too important.

I look forward to hearing from you. I’m sure you have much to say.

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