‘Refreshing party consensus’ as hustings back Waverley line

THE FOUR main party candidates vying to become the MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale have given an “absolute commitment” that the Borders railway project will be delivered, according to Gordon Henderson, the regional development manager of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

“There was a refreshing and surprising consensus on a number of key issues affecting our members,” said Mr Henderson after a hustings on business issues at the Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels last Thursday.

Chaired by Michael Laidler, a director of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce which organised the event with the FSB, the meeting was attended by around 30 members of the public who quizzed a panel, comprising Christine Grahame (SNP), Jeremy Purvis (Lib Dem), Ian Miller (Labour) and Peter Duncan (Con) on a range of issues.

A key area of concern was the state of town centres in the Borders, particularly Galashiels. David Houston, chairman of the town’s chamber of trade, opposed any proposal to pedestrianise Bank Street once all through traffic is diverted up Ladhope Vale.

There was general agreement, however, that the centre of the town was in urgent need of regeneration, its empty shops bearing testimony to the influence of major supermarkets to the west and, more recently, increased parking charges.

It was Mr Henderson who sought and received the commitment over the railway, though Mr Duncan made the supplementary point that, although all parties supported it being built, it should not detract attention from the fact that many roads in the Borders were in a “terrible state” after two hard winters.

He stated that people in places such as Peebles were probably less interested in the railway and were more interested in decent roads.

Mr Henderson told TheSouthern: “The absolute commitment of the candidates to the railway was heartening, as was their support for the FSB demand that local companies should be given an opportunity to tender for some of the smaller work, such as fencing contracts, which will emanate from the project.

z The Rev David Sceats will chair a hustings meeting for the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency at Connections, Selkirk, on Tuesday, April 26 at 7pm. The event has been organised by the Selkirk Council of Churches.