A Berwickshire audience wanted to hear Scottish Parliament election hopefuls’ views on a second independence referendum, wind farms, austerity and educational attainment.
Duns Parish Church was the venue for an election hustings meeting, chaired by Rev Stephen Blakey, and alongside the four candidates contesting the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency – Barrie Cunning (Labour), Jim Hume (Lib Dem), John Lamont (Conservative) and Paul Wheelhouse (SNP) – a further four South of Scotland List MSP candidates also attended the Duns event, Sarah Beattie Smith (Green Party), Beverley Gauld (Clydesdale & South Scotland Independent), Dan Foley (RISE) and Cheryl Scott (Solidarity).
Each of the eight candidates was given two minutes at the start of the hustings to make an appeal to voters, and each was given one minute at the end to sum up what they stand for. In between, as well as perhaps the more predictable topics of independence, austerity and education, there were also some curve balls thrown in by audience members such as the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, which means it would be an offence to chant certain songs in Scottish football grounds but would not necessarily result in arrest in a Scottish league game being played in Berwick in England.
Opening the speeches, Mr Wheelhouse told the audience that the contest for the Ettrick, Roxburgh, Berwickshire seat was “a clear choice between myself, looking after the vulnerable, or the alternative choice the Conservatives”, a view not necessarily shared by the others standing for the constituency.
Constituency candidates focused on issues they expected to be in the minds of Berwickshire folk when they cast their votes on May 5 – the reopening of Reston Station and a local rail service, improved broadband and education.
Mr Wheelhouse was also keen to see a re-drawing of the EU funding map to give the south of Scotland a greater chance of EU grant funding.
Jim Hume wants to see local public services fit for the future. John Lamont believes investment in jobs is needed so people have the choice of staying in the Borders. And Barrie Cunning “want to do everything I can to make the Borders better”.
Scottish independence and social justice were high on the agendas of both the RISE candidate Dan Foley and Socialist candidate Cheryl Scott. For the Greens, Sarah Beattie Smith is looking for social and environmental justice, and believes the Scottish Parliament has achieved great things but could be much bolder.
Clydesdale and South Scotland Independent Beverley Gauld is focused on family values, civil rights, and marriage.
Other hustings events have been taking place in the constituency over recent days and a BBC Scotland radio debate will come from Selkirk’s Victoria Hall on Thursday, April 28, when audience members will put a series of questions to the constituency candidates.