Selkirk in bid to host Rural Parliament

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An impassioned plea has been made for Selkirk to host next year’s sitting of a new national institution.

When it convened for the first time in Oban in November last year, the Scottish Rural Parliament (SRP) attracted 400 delegates who unanimously agreed it should meet every two years.

The parliament, effectively a large weekend conference, is organised by the charitable company Scottish Rural Action which has contacted other rural local authorities who may be interested in hosting the 2016 event.

And Scottish Borders Council confirmed this week it is considering submitting a bid ahead of the May 8 deadline.

When he heard of the offer, Dr Lindsay Neil, a retired GP and member of the Selkirk Regeneration Company, emailed the Selkirkshire members of SBC to put the case for Selkirk’s Victoria Halls being the ideal location.

“I have already contacted Selkirk Chamber of Trade, Selkirk High School and Lord Steel of Aikwood, who is prepared to offer his services as presiding officer, and all are very supportive,” he told them.

“Not only is Selkirk in the heart of the central Borders, it will also be able to take advantage of the Borders Railway, providing a major accommodation and tourism boost for neighbouring towns like Galashiels, Melrose and even Hawick, which represent 36 per cent of the region’s population.

“SBC has already acknowledged that Selkirk is in need of regeneration, so here is a perfect opportunity for it to get behind a strong bid for our town.”

After being told by Councillor Vicky Davidson (Selkirkshire) that Springwood Hall in Kelso and the Peebles Hotel Hydro were under consideration as potential venues, Dr Neil responded: “I have nothing against either Peebles or Kelso but, to be honest, they are too peripheral to be effective hosts.

“You’ve also got to ask if a livestock shed or a posh hotel really conveys the essence of the Borders to so many important visitors.

“The capacity of the Victoria Halls is 430 and there are many other ancillary venues in town to cope with fringe and entertainment events.”

An SBC spokesperson told The Southern this week: “The council is considering a bid to host the Scottish Rural Parliament, but nothing has been decided yet and discussions around it are still ongoing.”

The stated aim of the parliament is “to give a stronger, more coherent voice to Scotland’s rural communities, enabling them to engage more effectively with government at all levels”.

In November, delegates agreed to ask the Scottish Government to “commit to a national conversation on local democratic renewal as a first step towards radical reform of local government which will bring power much closer to communities”.