Candidates help enable the disabled to have a voice on May 5

FOUR of the nine Scottish Parliament candidates standing in the two Borders seats heard this week of the challenges facing local people with learning and physical disabilities at an event in Galashiels.

Jeremy Purvis (Lib Dem), Peter Duncan (Con) and Christine Grahame (SNP), who will contest Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale on May 5, were joined by Labour’s Rab Stewart, who will fight Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, at the afternoon session of an election awareness event, Your Voice, Your Vote, in Langlee Community Centre on Monday.

Organised by the Borders Voluntary Community Care Forum (BVCCF) and People First Borders, with the support of the Borders Learning Network and the Borders Disability Forum, the event offered service-users an overview of the forthcoming election and voting process.

And it included a fun election, with candidates from the Smarty Party, the Hearty Party and the Party Party – with the Smarty Party coming out on top.

Kathleen Travers, BVCCF assistant co-ordinator, gave a presentation on the work of the Scottish Parliament and how MSPs are elected.

Irene Allinson, from the Electoral Registration Office, spoke about how to register and the different ways of voting, such as postal and by proxy.

Other areas discussed were accessibility at polling places and the support available to help people to cast their vote. Delegates used a portable polling booth and a real ballot box, on loan from Scottish Borders Council.

In the afternoon, the four candidates spoke about their party policies in relation to health and social care. Jenny Miller, the BVCCF Co-ordinator, then led a “question time” session, when those attending got the opportunity to ask the candidates a range of questions about the issues that matter to them.

Ms Travers told us: “A big part of our work is representing service users and carers and making sure they have a voice. The aim was to inform them about the election and the referendum and make sure that they were made aware of the various voting options open to them.

“Voting in an election, whether it’s council, Scottish or UK Government, is one of the main ways in which people can make sure that they have a voice and we wanted to encourage those we work with to make the most of this opportunity to have their say.”