Gail Hendry, the SNP’s selection to contest the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire seat in the June 8 by-election may be former First Minister Alex Salmond’s sister, but she has more politics than that running through her veins.
“Indeed,” she laughed, as we called her this week, “in some parts of Scotland, Alex is known as Gail Hendry’s ‘much older’ brother.”
Gail – a mum of three who moved to Hawick with her husband from Aberdeenshire in 1999 – is something of a political mastermind herself, having led the campaign for Calum Kerr’s Westminster win in 2015, an election which saw a massive swing to the party and a narrow victory over the Conservatives.
A lecturer in the access department at Borders College, Gail is passionate about helping some of the most vulnerable people in the Borders.
She said: “I believe this area would benefit from having an SNP representative at Holyrood who can command the attention of our government ministers when requesting more investment.
“I know the area well and understand the needs and aspirations of communities in the constituency, having served as Calum Kerr’s election agent when he successfully contested the Westminster seat in 2015.
“The Tories have an appalling record in cutting expenditure on public services and on reducing the Scottish Government’s budget year on year. I fail to see how that can help the fortunes of this area and the whole of Scotland in general.
“During his term as MSP for this constituency Tory John Lamont has argued against virtually every Scottish Government policy or initiative designed to help the Borders and its economy. He even opposed the restoration of rail services to the region, but then seemed to change his mind when he realised how successful that particular SNP project had been.
“It’s time that the Scottish Borders had a strong, dependable MSP.”
She added: “I am taking unpaid leave to focus on the campaign, and it was a hard decision, as I love my students.
“But sometimes, you have to stand up and make the difference yourself.”
She is up against three other women – Conservative candidate Rachael Hamilton, who had to give up her list MSP post to bid for the constituency seat; Lib Dem candidate Catriona Bhatia and Labour’s Sally Prentice.
The seat became vacant following Tory John Lamont’s decision to stand down from the Holyrood seat to concentrate all his energy on bidding for the Westminster seat.