A discussion about jobs during the hustings at Duns produced the first flashpoint of the night, Conservative candidate John Lamont’s suggestion that living on benefits was a “lifestyle choice” for some causing uproar.
The Green party’s Pauline Stewart, disputed that modern apprenticeships would help the Borders economy, arguing instead for well paid jobs, an increase in the minimum wage and the end of zero hour contracts.
Supporting the development of modern apprenticeships John Lamont (Con) said: “Apprenticeships are important; youngsters learn life skills.
But when he went on to add “there are too many people making the life style choice of going on benefits,” there were shouts of “shameful” and a counter argument coming from the audience was that for the majority it is NOT a lifestyle choice.
Defending his initial statement Mr Lamont went on: “We need to agree a system that encourages people to work.”
UKIP’s Peter Neilson said: “UKIP isn’t going to form a Government, we are here as a pressure group and want to see lots of changes within government. we have lots of ideas.
“We want to see an increase in apprenticeships, we have got to get the high youth unemployment levels down.
Agreeing with the introduction of modern apprenticeships Michael Moore (Lib Dem) said: “Apprenticeships are a good thing.
“For real jobs we need to have the right business environment. We have open trading arrangements; we are looking out to the world not just Europe.
“We also need to invest in infrastructure.”
Calum Kerr (SNP) added: “I think the Borders has had a raw deal for too long.
“There is a distinct lack of investment. The Borders has been a forgotten land.
“There are also structural challenges - we need to see more ambition - wages are 20% below the Scottish average.
In-work poverty was also a concern for the Green party with Pauline Stewart agreeing that low wage poverty is definitely a problem for this area adding: “Building roads isn’t the answer. We would like to see Berwickshire railway reinstated and money put into social housing and energy saving schemes.”
Kenryck Jones (Lab) said: “We need to lift the minimum wage.
“We would like to see apprenticeships and to work with young people and support young people who aren’t going to university.”