Contenders set to lock political horns at Denholm hustings

Candidates for the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency are set to go head-to-head at a hustings event in Denholm on Monday night.

On the panel is the Conservatives’ John Lamont, who is looking to be re-elected to the seat he has held for nine years; as well as Barrie Cunning for Labour, Jim Hume for the Lib Dems, and Paul Wheelhouse for the SNP.

Chairman for the evening is former town councillor Andrew Farquhar, who said he hoped the hustings would promote full and frank debate, allowing people to make an informed comparison in selecting their preferred candidate.

This week, we asked the four candidates what they felt were the main issues which would form the Scottish election battleground in the Borders, ahead of polling day on May 5.

Mr Lamont said whether it be an enterprise zone for Hawick, better broadband and mobile connectivity, improvements to local transport links or investment in roads, he would “always put local people before party politics”. Nationally, he would continue to strongly oppose the SNP’s plans to have a second independence referendum.

Mr Cunning said he had spoken to many people in Hawick over the last few weeks and it was pretty clear that they wanted “real change”. He said he believed in direct accountability and, if elected, he would hold a meeting in the town hall within the first 100 days in office to let Teries know what he had been doing on their behalf and how he was getting the best deal for Hawick.

Mr Hume highlighted the Borders rail link which he said “must be extended” to Hawick and eventually Carlisle, to allow more communities to reap the benefits. He also wanted to see SNP college cuts reversed, and more investment in schools, further education and textiles skills so that young people have opportunities in the Borders.

Mr Wheelhouse threw the spotlight on the recently unveiled Hawick Action Plan, published by the Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council, which called for quality jobs and better “connectivity”. He also said he had always been a supporter of the Borders Railway, which had been a great success, and hailed SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to an early feasibility study on extending the route to Hawick and Carlisle.

The hustings gets under way on Monday in the village hall, Denholm, at 7pm.