Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Could an engineer unseat the transport secretary?

Civil engineer Gordon Buchan hopes to unseat transport secretary Alistair Darling in next week's election. Andrew Bolton met him on the campaign trail in Baberton, Edinburgh South West.

Gordon Buchan is used to juggling tasks. In the last month he has got a new job and moved house, while making ready for his wedding later this year. On top of that he is standing against transport secretary Alistair Darling as the Conservative candidate for Edinburgh South West in the General Election. So when he is not working for one of Britain's largest consulting engineers, he is giving out leaflets and canvassing for votes.

A civil engineer and transport planner, 30-year-old Buchan clearly thrives on stress.

Certainly, he shows no sign of it as he jokes about the bags growing under his eyes, as a result of working 18 hour days, splitting his day job with time spent pounding the streets of Edinburgh drumming up votes.

He is a strong believer that engineers have much to offer the world of politics. 'Politicians need to be drawn from a greater breadth of experience, ' he says.

'There have to be people from a more practical background like engineering.' Engineers often have a good understanding of the issues confronting politicians, he says, referring to the investigation by Members of the Scottish Parliament into the cost overruns on their newly opened building. 'It is frightening to see the lack of understanding about the Scottish Parliament, ' he says.

'If I became an MP I would be able to do something about the issues I get worked up about, ' he says. He is especially passionate about tacking the pensions timebomb, for example.

As a transport planner he is also able to speak authoritatively about congestion charging, a hot political topic in Edinburgh at the moment. Earlier this year the Labour-run city council failed to win a referendum on the introduction of congestion charging in the face of fierce opposition from the local Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Buchan says his employers have accommodated his political work, and that he does not take it into the office. During the campaign he has taken Mondays and Fridays off work to devote time to canvassing. He says his bosses believe that politics widens his world view.

Despite the high profile of his opponent, Buchan is optimistic about his success. Like Darling, Buchan is a local candidate and studied civil engineering at Edinburgh's Napier University before doing a masters degree in transport planning.

He got into politics after leaving university when he helped a friend who was standing for election in 1997.

He has since sought election to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and fought the Edinburgh South constituency in the 2001 General Election, where he increased the Conservative vote.

Buchan believes the seat in Edinburgh South West is winnable despite numbering 152 on the Conservative's list of the 159 most vulnerable Labour seats.

The Conservatives look to be the second placed party and have started breathing down Labour's neck in recent polls. The most recent Scottish Parliamentary election saw a Conservative candidate voted in to represent Pentlands, an area which is part of Edinburgh South West.

Edinburgh South West is a new constituency, so more difficult to predict than most. But although some commentators believe the Conservatives will need a 17.5% swing to win, Buchan holds that on recent form, and following the Labour city council's congestion charge debacle, he needs a swing of just 3.5%.

To this end he is out on the street by 6am pushing leaflets through doors. Rarely does he get home before 10pm, and once there spends until around midnight tackling correspondence with his prospective constituents.

Edinburgh seats are often among the last to declare winners on election night. This means that if you want to see how he does, you might have to wait up until the early hours of 7 May.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs