Setting out stall in Galashiels

It’s taken time – but the wait has been worthwhile. I’ve now opened a constituency office, giving me the chance to provide the kind of full service from an MP everyone wants and expects.

It’s in an excellent location, too. We’re at 46 High Street in Galashiels, right in the heart of the town, close to parking and the new railway station and transport interchange. In terms of convenience, it couldn’t be better placed.

Helping constituents with their problems is one of the most important elements of any MP’s role. Before being elected, I pledged to be the most open and accessible Member of the Westminster Parliament this region has ever had – and I’m determined to hold to that promise.

I’ve taken on a team of dedicated staff to help local people with problems. We’re dealing with a large number of cases covering a whole range of issues – welfare queries are particularly numerous at the moment because Tory benefits cuts are leaving people in real hardship and misery.

But there are plenty of other cases to deal with too – everything, in fact, from housing issues through to broadband difficulties, travel and safety on our roads.

One thing I’ve noticed since being elected is that many constituents, understandably, aren’t quite sure which issues are dealt with by MPs at Westminster and which by Members of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

So we’ve an answer to that. I’m sharing the office with my colleague, Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale. Christine is a formidable and effective campaigner who really works hard for the people she represents, so we’ll make a good team.

This partnership means that constituents can drop in or call, and we can direct them to either my staff or Christine’s, as appropriate. And of course if we all need to work together to resolve any issues, then we’ll happily do so.

There’s another important aspect too – by sharing an office and costs, we’re saving the taxpayer money.

It’s clearly important that we give priority to the most urgent cases, so if yours is more routine, then please do bear with us – we’ll be back to you to help just as soon as we can.

The more time passes, the more I realise how lucky I am to represent such a fantastic, beautiful and diverse constituency. I know things are tough for a lot of people and I’m hugely sympathetic to that, but there is also an awful lot to be optimistic about too.

For instance, I was privileged last week to join with another SNP colleague, South of Scotland regional MSP Paul Wheelhouse, at the graduation ceremony for Scottish Borders College in Springwood Park, Kelso.

It was a fantastic occasion not just for the graduates, but also for their friends and family. And it had some lovely touches of informality – for instance, hearing a child’s voice from the audience shout “Mummy!” as their parent went up to collect their award.

It’s a great college and a great asset to the region – and something else in the Borders that we all really should be proud of.

To contact my office, call 01896 750820 or email Office hours are 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.