Education is key to keeping young Borderers here

Scottish Labour’s Ian Davidson says that the Borders should not become ‘a giant retirement village’ for Edinburgh. 

Monday, 25th November 2019, 2:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 2:54 pm
Labour candidate for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, Ian Davidson.

The former Glasgow South West MP, who is again standing for election in his home constituency of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, said that the Borders needs to find ways of keeping young people in the area in order to prosper.

Speaking in Selkirk on Thursday, November 22, Mr Davidson was asked what local issues he would champion, if he is elected as MP on December 12. 

He said: “One of the main reasons I’m standing is, having grown up here, I then had to leave to get suitable education. 

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“Last time round, I was arguing for the creation of an economic partnership structure, and that’s now been developed, but it’s not nearly as vigorous as it ought to be. 

“We now to need to set a target, saying that as wages in the Borders are much lower than in surrounding areas, that is something we need to tackle.

“In my view there’s no future for the Borders as being a low wage area, because we’ll never be able to compete with low wage places like China, nor in my view should we aim to just be part of the greater Edinburgh sphere.

“I’m conscious that average wages in the Borders have risen as a result of people commuting from Edinburgh, but that’s actually by and large people who were staying in and around Edinburgh and have just moved out further, and increasing the average wage that way.

“I also don’t think that having a future as a giant retirement village is the way forward, because that is pretty much what the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal has the Borders as being, it sees that section of the population growing, and we need to find ways of keeping our young people here.

“That’s down to education. I am what I am now because of the education I received here in the Borders, but I’m not sure that youngsters from the same background are now getting quite the same chances.”

Mr Davidson was also asked whether cuts to spending enacted by Scottish Borders Council are a result of Scottish Parliament or Westminster policy.

He replied: “It is undoubtedly true that the Tories in Westminster have, over a period, sought to cut public expenditure and therefore that has been passed on through the Barnett formula to Scotland.

“It’s not quite the same, and it hasn’t been the same for a while, but there is some truth in the idea that cuts are coming from Westminster.

“However, the SNP in Holyrood do have virtually complete discretion over how they then use that money. Just because it’s cut back in London in a particular way doesn’t mean it that they have to do it.

“I think it’s absolutely clear that the SNP have not only passed on any cuts to local government, they’ve also magnified them.”

During the 2016 referendum, Mr Davidson campaigned to leave the European Union with the Vote Leave campaign, alongside Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Asked for his views on Brexit now, Mr Davidson said: “I have, for a long time, been eurosceptic. Not in the sense of wanting to automatically leave the EU, but just a bit cynical about it. 

“I used to work at one point for Janey Buchan, who was a member of the European Parliament, so I was unhappy about it, and suspicious about it, but I was always consciously not saying that I was in favour of leaving.

“Then we came to the negotiations that Cameron did, and the humiliation he got in terms of not getting anything from them, and in a binary choice I supported leave, then went off to work for the Vote Leave campaign.

“I was the Labour movement organiser for the Vote Leave campaign for a while, so I was on the board of Vote Leave with Michael Gove and Boris Johnson and people like that, though I left before the end for personal reasons.

“I think that Corbyn’s position of not saying what he would do is absolutely right. He can hardly say, at present, that whatever deal I negotiate I will support it. What he’s saying is that he’ll make up his mind, like he did last time, once he sees agreement.”

Voting for the 2019 general election takes place on Thursday, December 12.