Westminster notes: Clarification needed on Jim Clark Rally

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I was deeply disappointed to hear last week that the Council have decided not to allow next year’s Jim Clark rally to go ahead in May.

This decision has taken everyone by surprise as the indications to date were that the rally would be allowed to proceed.

There are, of course, serious ongoing investigations into the tragedy which occurred at this year’s event which must be allowed to conclude. With three spectators losing their lives, families and friends still await the conclusions of formal inquiries so that we can ensure that this never happens again. I know that everyone in Berwickshire and across the Borders were also hit extremely hard by the tragic loss of life.

It had, howeve,r been suggested that, as in other cases, the investigations into the tragedy would not prevent the event from taking place next year.

I believe the Council need to provide urgent clarification of the steps which would need to happen to allow this decision to be reversed. The rally is a significant sporting and financial event for Berwickshire, raising £3.5million for the local economy.

I hope it could be possible to combine an appropriately thorough investigation into last year’s tragedy with proper planning for the event next year. We need to see all the authorities work together to assist the Council and allow the rally to proceed.

Major concerns have been raised by the NFUS recently about the lack of information and transparency from the Scottish Government over how they plan to introduce key parts of the new Common Agricultural Policy.

There is currently a huge amount of uncertainty, for example, over both the depth and reach of the National Reserve which allows for additional support for new entrants and young farmers and compensates farmers for specific disadvantages

There is also lack of clarity over the transition to the new area payment system which will have serious implications for the support our local farmers receive. Many producers are concerned that under the new system they will see support greatly reduced and only improving back to normal levels by 2019.

I am therefore urging the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, to be clearer with farmers regarding the new system and to improve the level of information they receive so that they can have confidence in the new system and security for the future.

Farming is absolutely vital here in the Borders and any reduction in the level of support our farmers receive would have serious knock-on effects for local farm businesses and jobs.

This past week we have once again turned our attention to the lives lost in past conflicts to secure our freedom. We owe so much to the members of our armed forces who paid the ultimate price and for those who continue to serve to make our world a safer place. Here in the Borders we have a strong connection with our armed forces and I am sure many thousands of Borderers joined in with ceremonies and services of remembrance.

I continue to hold regular advice surgeries across the Borders and these are an opportunity for local people to come and discuss with me any concerns or issues they wish to bring to my attention. I had a surgery in Duns last week and it was great to meet with several of my constituents and take up their concerns as local MP.

If you would like to attend one of these surgeries, please call my office on 01896 663650 for more information and to make an appointment.