Swinney joins Grahame in MSP’s battle to win ‘key seat’

Christine Graham, SNP MSP for Scotland South and Finance Secretary John Swinney meet today at Abbotsford House as the Scottish Election campaigns gather momentum.
Christine Graham, SNP MSP for Scotland South and Finance Secretary John Swinney meet today at Abbotsford House as the Scottish Election campaigns gather momentum.

CHRISTINE Grahame believes it would be “extraordinary” if she won the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale (MTL) seat on May 5.

The Scottish National Party candidate says victory could leave Michael Moore as the only Liberal Democrat representative for the Borders in either the Scottish or UK parliaments.

She claims that would bring an end to the party’s domination of the region’s politics which has existed since David Steel was elected MP for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles in 1965.

Ms Grahame said: “It would be quite extraordinary if this seat was taken from them (Lib Dems). They would be left with only the Secretary of State for Scotland in a part of the country which was once Lord Steel’s territory.”

Ms Grahame was accompanied on a tour of the Borders on Tuesday by John Swinney, former leader of the SNP.

The pair took in Broughton Ales in Biggar, before travelling down the A72 to the Cardrona MacDonald Hotel and onto Abbotsford House.

Mr Swinney’s support comes as Ms Grahame attempts to gain revenge for two defeats in the former Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale seat to Liberal Democrat Jeremy Purvis in 2003 and 2007, both by less than 600 votes.

The importance of the seat to both parties has been identified by one London-based national newspaper, who named it a key constituency as part of their election build-up.

Asked what a victory in the newly formed seat would mean, the former solicitor said: “I have had so many narrow misses. It would mean I can concentrate on one area rather than the huge area and workload covered as a list MSP.

“If you are the constituency MSP then you are able to focus on the people within that area. That would be a huge privilege and would also mean I would be able to work better.”

Despite Midlothian being traditionally regarded as a Labour stronghold, the 66-year-old has called the MTL election battle a “two horse race” between herself and Mr Purvis.

And she believes her chances of finally defeating her Lib Dem foe are improved by the new constituency.

“It makes it much more winnable for the SNP,” Ms Grahame added. “But I absolutely take nothing for granted until May 5 when the votes are counted.

“I have a very formidable opponent in Jeremy Purvis and he has a formidable opponent in me.

“We are two tough politicians and so it is a very interesting battle.

“I think the Lib Dem vote is in great difficulty. I have campaigned here for more than 12 years and I have never known people so disillusioned with the Lib Dems for going into coalition with the Conservatives.

“I think many won’t vote and many are switching to vote for me.” She added: “The concerns are the same (in Midlothian and the Borders).

“The perception of Midlothian is that it is all farming in the Borders, and the perception in the Borders is that it is all coal mining in Midlothian.

“It is nothing of the kind. In both parts of the country, traditional industries have gone in the main.

“In a way the recession has made both areas closer together.”

Mr Swinney went on to visit Hawick Police Station and Heart of Hawick with Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire’s SNP candidate Paul Wheelhouse later in the day.

He said: “We have got excellent prospects in the Borders constituencies.

“It is a very narrow contest in Midlothian, Tweeddale and Lauderdale where Christine has been a well-established candidate with a very strong reputation locally.

“In Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, Paul Wheelhouse is fighting a very comprehensive campaign.

“With the difficulties the Liberals and Conservatives are facing with implications from the UK Government, we have got great prospects in this part of Scotland.”