THE chances of former Tory MP Peter Duncan emerging from the political wilderness at the Scottish Parliamentary polls in May were greatly enhanced this week when John Lamont. MSP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, withdrew from the party’s South of Scotland regional list.
Mr Lamont made his unexpected decision after rank-and-file members across the South of Scotland voted him into third place on the seven-strong list.
Selkirk’s Derek Brownlee, tops that grass-roots poll and is thus virtually certain of another term at Holyrood. The Conservative finance spokesman, has been an MSP since 2005 when David Mundell resigned his list place at Holyrood after being elected MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. At that time, Mr Brownlee was next on the Tory list for the South of Scotland.
In 2007, Mr Brownlee contested the Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale seat in the Holyrood elections, coming third to the Lib Dem Jeremy Purvis, but he was again elected as an additional member from his party’s list.
In second place on the list, behind Mr Brownlee, who will also contest the East Lothian seat, is sitting Ayr MSP John Scott.
Mr Lamont’s decision means that Mr Duncan, who lives in Earlston, moves up from fourth to third place.
In 2001, when Mr Duncan took the Westminster seat of Galloway and Upper Nithsdale with a majority of 74, he became Scotland’s only Tory MP.
But when constituency boundaries were revamped for the 2005 General Election, Mr Duncan lost to Labour’s Russell Brown despite increasing his share of the vote. He tried again this year, but Mr Brown prevailed with an increased majority.
With his move to live in the Borders, Mr Duncan was proclaimed as the Conservative candidate to take on Mr Purvis in the reconfigured Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale Scottish seat in May next year. In that fight, he will also be up against the SNP’s Christine Grahame who, as top of her party’s regional list, is virtually certain to be returned as an MSP. Making up the line-up is Labour’s Ian Miller from Penicuik.
Mr Lamont, who lives in Coldstream, highlighted the fact that Borderers had “performed particularly well” in occupying three of the four top spots on the Conservative list in the south.
But he added: “Despite being pleased to have received such strong support from party members, my total commitment is to the people of my Borders constituency. I have therefore taken the decision to remove my name from the regional list.
“I have worked as hard as I can on behalf of the people of Roxburgh and Berwickshire over the last four years and I hope to be able to represent the new constituency of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire after the May election.”
John Greenwell, chairman of the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk Conservative Association, told us: “This is a very brave, but admirable decision. John simply does not want to be a list MSP and would much rather be a first-past-the-post member and continue helping his constituents.”
The SNP’s Paul Wheelhouse, who is sixth of his party’s regional list, and Lib Dem Euan Robson, who was ousted by Mr Lamont in 2007, are already confirmed to fight Mr Lamont. Labour will select its candidate on December 20 and is expected to publish its full regional list in the New Year.
However, TheSouthern can reveal that Dumfries MSP Elaine Murray is at the top, followed by former Scottish party chairman Claudia Beamish, who came second to Mr Mundell in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale in this year’s General Election.
An interesting choice in third place for Labour is Graeme Pearson, who was director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency from 2007-2007.
The recently-released Lib Dem regional list is topped by incumbent Jim Hume, with Councillor Catriona Bhatia, daughter of party grandee Lord Steel of Aikwood, in second place.
z The list top-up system is a distinguishing feature of the Scottish Parliament, combining two voting procedures. The 73 constituencies have a first-past-the-post vote. In addition, 56 are elected by a form of proportional representation, designed to more accurately reflect the way people vote and the proportion of votes case in eight regions, including the South of Scotland.