It’s make your mind up time about where to put your cross on the General Election ballot paper this Thursday, June 8.
Last week the four candidates for the tightly contested Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat did the round of hustings across the constituency - including Duns and Eyemouth - to give voters the chance to hear directly from them as to why the cross should go against their name.
The importance of the outcome in the constituency - only 328 votes separated the Conservative and SNP candidates in the 2015 General Election - was emphasised by the Prime Minister Theresa May and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon both visiting the Borders earlier this week to support their candidates.
Is it a two horse race between Conservative candidate John Lamont and the SNP’s Calum Kerr? Do the Tories “represent the forces of darkness” as suggested by Labour candidate Ian Davidson? Will voting SNP send the message that you are in favour of a second referendum? Are we better off in Europe and do you want a second referendum on the exit deal negotiated with the EU? Will our safety be at risk by voting Labour?
There was a large, and at times noisy, crowd at Duns to ask the candidates questions on Thursday evening - farming, Brexit, education, poverty, welfare reforms, and oil were the topics members of the audience wanted to discuss. They also wanted to know what personal qualities the candidates felt made them best equipped to do the job.
At Eyemouth on Friday evening the atmosphere was calmer, with more listening being done by both the audience and the candidates. The Eyemouth audience wanted to know what the candidates believed were the needs and desires of this constituency, plus their thoughts on social and residential care for older people, interaction with constituents, the uncertain position of EU nationals in the country and Trident.
Answering the question of the top priorities for the constituency at the Duns hustings, Labour candidate Ian Davidson chose jobs, wages and keeping communities together rather than seeing youngsters leaving because of the lack of career opportunities. The Liberal Democrats’ Caroline Burgess thought IT connectivity, transport connectivity and the impact of Brexit were top of the list. For Conservative hopeful John Lamont, jobs, a strong economy and improving education standards were the top three. And the SNP’s Calum Kerr opted for jobs, transport and connectivity.
Candidates were asked at Eyemouth what they considered to be their top responsibilities in representing the area. Ian Davidson opted for doing the best he could with the case work brought to him by constituents, being the representative of the party that the electorate votes for and tempering that with listening to his own conscience. He reminded the audience that he was a Labour MP in Glasgow until 2015, when he “retired by public demand.”
Caroline Burgess felt her focus should be on keeping Britain part of Europe and mental health. John Lamont wants to represent everyone in the constituency regardless of how they vote and provide the country with economic stability. For Calum Kerr representing individuals, the impact of Brexit on the region’s economy and making decisions according to his conscience were his top priorities.