The SNP’s campaign in the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire took a significant step forward at the weekend when their candidate, Paul Wheelhouse, was formally adopted at a lively function in Hawick.
Paul was proposed as SNP candidate by Scottish Government Minister for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP, who had earlier accompanied Paul to meet young voters in Kelso.
Paul Wheelhouse has 18 years experience in economics and education consultancy and has lived in the Berwickshire area of the constituency for almost 11 years He stood for the SNP in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk in last year’s Westminster election; an election where he received widespread praise for his abilities as a candidate and increased the party’s vote.
Mr Wheelhouse started off his Holyrood campaign by condemning the Lib Dems “for having betrayed those who voted for them tactically on an anti-Tory basis by then foisting a Tory UK Government on Scotland”.
He contrasted progressive measures by the SNP with inaction by the Tories and Lib Dems on the issue of fuel duty and called upon them to back the SNP’s policy of a fuel duty regulator, as a matter of urgency.
Paul said: “Since 2008, I’ve listened to or read thousands of people’s stories, heard of the challenges they face and their ideas for the future. Ideas that I’d like to now help them implement.
“I’m keen to tackle hidden poverty, the lack of well-paid jobs and affordable housing for many and the poor public transport; the latter a legacy of Tory bus deregulation.
“The cost of running a car or HGV is becoming unaffordable as fuel prices continue to rise, while London and Michael Moore are having to be dragged kicking and screaming to tackle this issue after almost a year in office.
“The SNP Scottish Government has a tremendous record of achievement, having met 84 of 94 manifesto commitments so far, despite being a minority Government. As a local example, the Scottish Government has raised the number registered with an NHS dentist in the Borders from 45,200 to 68,200 since June 2007 – an increase of 51% since we came to office.
“It is a great start, but there is plenty more to do.
“Funding is tight, but I want to build the case now for when funding can permit future investment. An SNP victory locally and nationally would allow us to state we’re no longer stuck in the political past. It is our time - right here, right now - to see the focus for economic development turn its attention on the Borders.
“On independence, it is our mission, but it is not change for change’s sake that we seek, but rather the means to improve the lives of all who live here. Independence will give us the policy tools to do the job. As part of a ‘Broke Britain’, Scotland compares very unfavourably with neighbours, Norway.”
Paul called for a different style of politics which looked to the longer-term needs of this and future generations. He highlighted that whereas the UK has squandered Scotland’s £280 billion share of oil and gas revenues, Norway had built up an even larger, £340 billion oil fund in just 16 years.
“Norway restricts itself to using just 4% of this fund annually, to protect the fund’s value, but in the current year alone that 4% is worth £13.6 billion; enough to build this year 50 Borders Railways, dual dangerous sections of the A7, A68 and A1 many times over and build as many as 390 Selkirk by-passes,” said Paul.
“UK Oil and Gas stated this week that there is enough oil to last for decades to come and this is worth £2.5 trillion at today’s prices.
“Would an oil-rich, independent Scotland allow a key southern gateway to remain hobbled by a 19th Century infrastructure? Not likely.”
“When the City of London sneezed in 2008, Scotland caught London Labour’s economic cold, but Norway sailed through without a recession despite Labour’s claim of a “global downturn”.
Fiona Hyslop MSP said: “Paul Wheelhouse and his team are working very hard to win this constituency and the betrayal by the Lib Dems of those who voted for them offers Paul an excellent opportunity, as he provides a highly credible, articulate and determined alternative to both his main opponents.
“With the slump in Lib Dem support, we have never had a better chance to win through locally than we have this May, and in Paul we have a candidate of whom we can be proud. He has great empathy with people, as I saw when we met young voters in Kelso this afternoon and with the kind of support local members have given him tonight, Paul can win in May.”