The Polish diaspora in Scotland can celebrate a historic moment – for the first time, the Scottish Parliamentary elections involve a candidate of their own. In May 2016, Scottish Poles will have a chance to demonstrate their political power by voting for Maciej Wiczyński from the Kingdom of Fife.
Wiczyński, a 32-year-old father of two Scotland-based children, managed to get a vote of confidence from the biggest political player in the country – the Scottish National Party.
Originally from the Wielkopolska region in Western Poland, Wiczyński first became politically active in high school. He then went on to study economy management at the Warsaw School of Economics and Politology at the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań. After graduation he worked as an assistant in a constituency office, first for a Polish MP, then for the first Polish Vice-President of the European Parliament.
Wiczyński arrived in Scotland 8 years ago, where, as he confesses, he started from scratch. That is why, as he highlights, he “understands the everyday problems of Polish immigrants like nobody else”. He openly admits that his current success cost him hard work, sleepless nights and thousands of miles in a car, driving from one meeting to another. His political career in Scotland started two and a half years ago, when he joined the SNP. Since then, hardly a rally, conference or public meeting has passed without his presence – while he continued to work professionally at the NHS.
His efforts paid off in the Summer 2015, when the SNP was looking for “candidates for candidates” for the election lists, judging their political skill. Wiczyński reveals that at this stage he had to compete with some “truly extraordinary people”, including activists, councillors, directors, MSPs and even members of the government – thus his success makes him especially proud.
Stronger voice of Polonia
And what is his political agenda if he manages to also win the public vote? His priority is, as he says, improving recognition of European education and overseas qualifications in Scotland. “I know from experience how difficult it is to start a new life as an immigrant. Lack of recognition of our previous professional and academic achievements is especially problematic,” Wiczyński says.
He highlights that diploma recognition is of crucial importance not only for Poles and other European migrants in Scotland, but for the entire national economy: “Scotland is rich first and foremost in the talent and diversity of its inhabitants” he says, adding that putting to good use the previous achievements and future potential of immigrants will help Scotland, his new home, develop.
Wiczyński also hopes to improve the political awareness of Polish Scots: “Effective politics is executed through small steps. I have made a few of them for now,” he says modestly. “I hope that my candidacy will give the Polish diaspora a stronger voice in parliament, and that it will pave the way for our children. This can be a shared success of all Poles in Scotland.”
By Dorota Peszkowska
Photo: Barbara Ostrowska