Ahead of the public vote in Kelso’s Tait Hall on Sunday to decide who will be Selkirk’s Conservative candidate in the 2015 General Election, The Wee Paper asked the two finalists why Souters should vote for them.
Any registered voters in the Selkirk, Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency can vote at the hustings, which opens at 4pm, but they must register their attendance 48 hours beforehand, by emailing their name and address to email@example.com, or by calling 01835 823267.
First up in the blue corner is Michelle Ballantyne, Scottish Borders councillor for the Selkirkshire ward and leader of the Tories’ opposition group in the chamber.
Councillor Ballantyne is the mother of six children with her husband of 30 years, Neil, and for most of her career she has been employed in health and social care management in the NHS and voluntary sector.
She told us: “I am standing because I believe I can make a difference.
“I bring a wealth of professional and life experience, and a commitment to serving the people of the Borders first and foremost.
“I am by nature someone who likes to get things done, a problem solver and a team builder. I see politics as the vehicle for improving the future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren.
“It is a way of giving back to the community that has served us well and ensuring that the decisions that affect all our lives are grounded in the things that matter most to us.”
She continued: “I firmly believe that it is something you should come to once you have gained the life experience that grounds your understanding of the impact of the decisions that are made by government. You also need to be able to stand up for what is right for your constituency and your country, no matter what the personal cost, because you are elected to represent the people, not to a career way of life.
“John (Lamont) and I are very different in our backgrounds – both in our family life and our careers. I hope that people will come to the open primary with an open mind, to listen to what we have to say, and vote for the person that they feel will make the best candidate and hopefully the next MP for this area.”
The other contender for Westminster is Borders MSP John Lamont.
“It is almost seven years since I was elected to represent the people of Roxburgh and Berwickshire in the Scottish Parliament,” he said. “As the son of a local farmer, I understand the need to provide a strong voice for unique rural communities like those in the Borders.
“I have a strong record of campaigning on local issues that affect our lives everyday. I have campaigned for better and safer roads for the Borders, I fought to bring extra funding to support our local high streets, and I championed our local NHS and police services in the face of Scottish Government cuts.
“This reputation as a local champion helped me to be re-elected in 2011 for the larger constituency of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, with the largest Conservative poll in Scotland. I am one of the few Conservatives in Scotland who can get elected without the help of a complex proportional representation voting system.”
He went on: “Every day I enjoy the challenges and excitement of being your representative in the Scottish Parliament, standing up to get a better deal for the Borders. I hold regular surgeries in every town and village in my constituency and I take immense satisfaction from representing my constituents and sorting out problems on their behalf.
“I support local common ridings and festivals across the Borders. I attend the local agricultural shows and other local events. I have done this at the same time as trying to represent the hundreds of square miles that my constituency covers, from Ettrick in the west to Cockburnspath in the north-east.
“It would be a great honour to continue this work on your behalf as your MP at Westminster.”