View from Holyrood: Flagging up Queen’s popularity

It was great to attend a service in Duns to celebrate The Queen becoming the longest-reigning British monarch.

All the local residents who attended the service were there to offer not only their congratulations, but their thanks for a lifetime of selfless public service. The Queen has been a force of good for this country through both tough and good times in an ever-changing world. Her sense of duty and dignity is an example to us all.

It was a pleasure to welcome her to the Borders that week as well, in what was a fantastic event which provided excellent coverage for our area. I was struck by the huge crowds of people, waving Union flags in support of the ever-popular monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I’ve also been reflecting on the mood in the Borders this time last year.

After campaigning for the UK for so many months, it had really hit home for me how much the UK meant, right at a time when its very survival was under threat.

While I thought the independence result across Scotland might be close, I never wavered in my belief that there would be a No vote last September. This wasn’t because I was complacent, it was because the case in favour of the United Kingdom stacked up.

There were clearly financial and economic elements to that case, which have only been strengthened in the 12 months since the referendum campaign, particularly in light of the collapse in oil prices.

But there was a positive case, based on the heart too. In the Borders the vast majority believed that Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are no less countries for being part of a union. Indeed, that – together – we’ve always been more than the sum of our parts.

Many people helped out in the Borders, from all pro-UK parties and none, to secure the resounding No vote last year. The referendum has energised and engaged people on both sides of the debate.

A year on, I want to thank you again for the work you did. It was your support that helped get us over the line.

But recent events show us that there is still work to be done.

Before the referendum, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond said last year’s vote would be a “once-in-a-generation” event. They also signed a written agreement between Scotland’s two governments – in Holyrood and Westminster – that whatever the result, it would be respected. But over this last weekend they have torn up those promises. All sorts of spurious reasons have been given for the U-turn.

Strip away the SNP’s spin, and it’s clear that they intend to press ahead with a re-run of the referendum as soon as they think they might win.

Berwickshire doesn’t want another referendum – we want to move on. We shouldn’t still be talking about the constitution, not when Borders General Hospital is having to cancel operations through lack of resources, not when teaching posts at Borders College have been slashed and not when farmers are struggling to make ends meet.