The Tory party’s first open primary election of a Westminster party candidate in Scotland saw John Lamont MSP selected in Kelso on Sunday evening.
Around 300 people – party members and other Borders residents – attended the question and answer sessions, followed by ballot voting in the Tait Hall, to choose between Scottish Borders Councillor Michelle Ballantyne and the local MSP to fight the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat in the 2015 General Election.
Conservatives say the area is one of their target seats in Scotland and they used the new process to make candidate selection more transparent and allow others to be involved.
Mr Lamont said: “I am delighted to have won the first open primary in Scotland to become the parliamentary candidate for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.
“It was overwhelming to see so many people turn out to get involved in this important process.”
Daily Telegraph journalist Alan Cochrane chaired the event, asking the candidates submitted questions along with his own, and taking questions from the audience. He spoke first to Mrs Ballantyne.
Issues covered included Scottish independence, same sex marriage, whether the candidates are career politicians, the ‘toxic’ Tory brand in Scotland, Thatcherism, Scottish Parliament powers, why there are few women in Tory politics, immigration, EU membership, whether the candidates would go against the party whip and local issues of Borders railway and town centres.
After the count, Mrs Ballantyne said: “I’m happy we have got a good candidate to run in the election and go forward and win the seat in 2015, that’s the main thing. I’m going to get on with the business of being in the council.”
Scottish Borders Conservative and Unionist Association vice chairman, Neil Stratton, said: “We see this primary as a way of opening up to voters: this is a way we can show them what we are and they can come and listen to the candidates and make up their own mind. We are only going to win the seat if we win some Liberal votes.”
His chairman Robert-Miller-Bakewell said: “It’s been an outstanding success. We’ve raised the profile (of the party locally) and ratcheted up pressure on our political opponents.”
Local MSP since 2007, Mr Lamont is also the Scottish Tories’ Chief Whip and Parliamentary Business Manager.
The 2015 General Election will be his third attempt to win the seat from Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore – he contested in 2005 and 2010. In the 2010 election he increased his share of the vote by 6.8 per cent.