Kerr and Lamont set to do battle again

John Lamont, left, congratulates Calum Kerr following the SNP's general election victory in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk in 2015.
John Lamont, left, congratulates Calum Kerr following the SNP's general election victory in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk in 2015.

The constituency of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk could be a key strategic battleground in the snap general election to be held on June 8.

Speaking on Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May said her cabinet had agreed to call an early election, saying: “The country is coming together but Westminster is not.”

It is a move which has been welcomed by two men who fought for the seat two years ago – when the SNP’s Calum Kerr beat Tory John Lamont by only 328 votes.

However, Mr Kerr has also questioned Mrs May’s motives in calling the election.

He said: “I would welcome the opportunity to go back to the people who elected me and to make a renewed case for representing the region I’m proud to call home.

“However, I do question the Prime Minister’s motives in calling this extraordinary vote.

“The naked opportunism behind this move puts the interests of an increasingly right-wing Tory Party before those of the country.

“It is clearly an attempt to take advantage of the chaos within the Labour Party, who have failed so consistently to provide a functioning opposition.

“To vote Tory in June is endorse a hard Brexit and to provide the government with an unconstrained mandate.

“In holding the government to account on Brexit, it has become clear to me that the Prime Minister knows she is losing the argument and that she has called this election so that it is out of the way before the full impact of Brexit becomes clear.

Mr Lamont told us: “I very much welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement and agree an election in June is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the UK needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.

“Voters in the Borders will have a clear choice between the SNP, who will use this campaign to try and manufacture a case for separation, and the Scottish Conservatives who will stand up for a strong Government to get the best Brexit deal for Scotland.

“The Borders is currently represented by an MP who is pushing for a re-run of the Scottish independence referendum and who does not accept the result of the UK wide EU referendum last year. The Borders and the UK deserves a strong Government, not the division and political game playing that the SNP and Labour are obsessed with.

“Local party members will be selecting the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party candidate for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk in the coming days.”

While Mr Lamont has to wait for the selection process before putting his hat in the ring, it is difficult to believe his party will vouch for any other candidate, given his strong showing in the last election and his high-profile locally as a serving MSP.

Mr Kerr has already said he will defend his seat.

He said: “I cannot overstate how much of an honour it has been to represent the people of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk over the past two years.

“Given the immense challenges we face, there is no doubt in my mind that there is so much more work that needs to be done to protect the interests of the Borders.

“This is why I will be standing for re-election on June 8.”

Meanwhile, NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said it was vital that farmers’ interests are heard during the campaign.

He said: “For Scottish farmers, crofters and food producers looking for certainty and confidence in an uncertain, Brexit-dominated landscape, this announcement will only add to mounting questions about the future

“NFUS will seek to influence and scrutinise those manifestos and, despite the relatively short timetable between now and the election, we will pull together our own document reiterating our priorities for Scottish farmers and crofters.