As an MP, I’ve become acutely aware not only of the fantastic beauty, culture, history and people within this constituency, but of its sheer diversity too.
Every part has its own distinctive assets, opportunities and challenges. It’s one of the things that makes the job so incredibly interesting. And Berwickshire, it must be said, is one of the best parts of all.
As in other parts of the Borders, transport is one of the biggest issues here, as we’ve a relatively poor road network. The A1 from Edinburgh to Berwick has been gradually getting better, but it would be fantastic if we could eventually get it fully dualled between the two.
Rail is another big subject for discussion. Only last month, the new Borders Railway from Edinburgh to Tweedbank began service and was officially opened by The Queen. That is a huge and massively important £300million investment in the central Borders, but I’d be the first to accept that it really doesn’t have any impact in this part of the constituency.
Of course, we already have a railway here – the East Coast Main Line between Edinburgh and London King’s Cross. It’s one of the fastest and busiest in the UK. But the problem is that at the moment, there isn’t a single service on it which stops anywhere in the Borders.
We’re working to put that right with a new station at Reston and a commuter service with regular trains between Scotland’s capital and Berwick. I’ve had several meetings recently with the Rail Action Group East of Scotland (RAGES) which is driving forward this project, and of course it has my full support.
I’ve also met with Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure in the Scottish Government, to discuss the issue, and he’s supportive. Plus I’ve had other talks with Network Rail and have also written to the Office of Rail and Road, the safety and economic regulator for the UK’s railways, seeking assurances that local trains using Reston will be granted access to the track alongside other national operators such as Virgin East Coast and Cross Country.
I’m not the only politician campaigning hard on this – my colleague, Paul Wheelhouse, the SNP regional MSP for the South of Scotland, has also worked tirelessly on the Reston project and has been one of the driving forces behind the plan.
There’s another important local initiative. Eyemouth and the glorious Berwickshire coast are huge assets and we need to make the most of both.
This week I chaired a meeting of the Eyemouth Renewables Group, an organisation with a number of important stakeholders, including Scottish Borders Council, Scottish Renewables and Eyemouth Harbour Trust. The aim is to work out a plan for the best use of the harbour and area, and the stunning, unique Berwickshire coastline.
Finally, a reminder that my constituency office is now open – it’s at 46 High Street in Galashiels and the phone number is 01896 750820. My staff and I are here to help you if we can.
I’m also hoping that if budgets allow, I’ll be able to open another office in the east of the constituency.