Holyrood hopefuls declared

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FIVE candidates are vying to represent Roxburgh, Berwickshire and Ettrick in the Scottish Parliament over the next four years following the closure of nominations for the May 5 Holyrood election.

Conservative MSP John Lamont will be defending a 2,000 majority after winning the seat in 2007 with an 8.9 per cent swing from Liberal Democrat Euan Robson, who had represented the area from the start of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Both are standing again this time round, but the extension of the constituency to take in Ettrick makes the outcome in five weeks time more difficult to predict.

Also in the mix is last year’s Westminster SNP candidate Paul Wheelhouse, from Ayton; Labour candidate Rab Stewart, a former trade union leader from Selkirk; and independent Jesse Rae, a former rock singer rarely seen out in public without his trademark iron mask.

In 2007 Lamont received 10,556 votes Robson 8,571, SNP’s Aileen Orr 4,127, Labour’s Mary Lockhart 2,108 and Rae 318. The turn-out was 53.5 per cent.

As well as selecting their constituency MSP, voters will also be asked to select a political party on a second ballot paper.

The 129 Holyrood MSPs are made up from a combination of constituency first-past-the post candidates and those selected by their political party for the regional lists.

With the next election due on May 5, 2016, those elected will serve five years in office. It is one year later than originally planned, to avoid a clash with the next Westminster poll.

Many voters struggled with voting for both the Scottish Parliament and local council elections on the same day in 2007, so voting for Westminster and Scottish Parliaments at the same time would probably have been a recipe for disaster.

Nevertheless, voters on this May 5 will also have a UK referendum question to answer too.

The Westminster coalition Government is asking voters to consider changing the first-past-the-post system for Westminster elections.

The alternative on offer is the AV (Alternative Vote) system. Like first past the post, it is used to elect a single representative for a constituency, but instead of simply marking one solitary ‘X’ on the ballot paper, the voter has the chance to rank the candidates on offer by numbering their preferences.

The referendum question is: “At present, the UK uses the ’first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?”

But unless you are registered to vote you won’t be able to have your say in either the Scottish Parliament elections or the UK-wide referendum.

You have until Friday, April 15 to register with Scottish Borders Council if you haven’t already done so. Those applying for a postal vote will have to do so by Thursday, April 14, and the deadline for applying for a proxy vote is Thursday, April 21.

Citizens of other European Union countries registered to vote in Scotland can vote in the Scottish Parliament election. However, they can’t vote in the UK referendum.

Mark Dickson, electoral registration officer for SBC explains: “Registering to vote is quick and easy but if you’re not registered by Friday, April 15, you’ll miss out on your chance to have your say in the Scottish Parliament election and the referendum on the voting system used for elections to the UK Parliament.

“By calling us on 01835 825100 or printing off the form from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk you can make sure you’re all set for polling day on May 5.”

Andy O’Neill, head of the Electoral Commission’s Scotland office, added: “The Electoral Commission will be sending a booklet to every household in the UK with information about how to have your say on Thursday, May 5.”