He had been a local councillor for 22 years in South Ayrshire (formerly Kyle & Carrick), and stood for parliamentary seats at the 1987 election, the 1992 election and 1997 election. He was first elected to the European Parliament in 1999, and retained his seat in 2004.
As an MEP, he spearheaded an international campaign to raise awareness and secure aid for the victims of radiation in the Semipalatinsk Region of Kazakhstan, where the Soviets tested 607 nuclear devices from 1949-1990, leaving an appalling legacy of pollution, deprivation, illness and death. He was awarded with an honorary doctorate in Science from the State Medical Academy in Semipalatinsk in recognition of his efforts and on his third visit to Kazakhstan in 2003, he was made an Honorary Citizen of Semipalatinsk. In September 2004 he won a $50,000 prize in an international essay competition sponsored by the US-based John Templeton Foundation for an essay entitled ‘CRYING FOREVER’ charting the suffering of the people of Semipalatinsk. Struan donated the entire $50,000 to Mercy Corps Scotland to assist with their work in Semipalatinsk. He toured an exhibition of photographs taken in Semipalatinsk by his friend the actress and photographer Kimberley Joseph (Gladiators, Cold Feet & Lost) from the Scottish Parliament, to the European Parliament, the Department for International Development in Whitehall, the UN headquarters in New York and finally, to Almaty, Astana and Semipalatinsk itself in Kazakhstan. In 2006 he published a book also entitled ‘CRYING FOREVER’ detailing his experiences in Kazakhstan. The book was launched at the UN Headquarters in New York and all proceeds from its sale were presented by Struan to the Children’s Hospital in Semipalatinsk, totalling over $20,000. In January 2007 Struan was decorated by the President of Kazakhstan with the ‘Shapagat’ or ‘Mercy’ award for his humanitarian work in Semipalatinsk.
Struan also led a highly successful campaign for 8 years in the European Parliament to impose an EU-wide ban on the import, export and trade in cat and dog fur. It was estimated that up to 2 million cats and dogs were being cruelly slaughtered each year in China alone, simply to meet demand for fur products in Europe. Working with Humane Society International, Struan’s high-profile campaign led to over one million emails and signatures on petitions, finally culminating in a draft regulation being prepared by the European Commission and voted through Parliament. The regulation will be enacted into EU law across all 27 Member States of the EU in 2008.