WITH the Scottish Parliament elections taking place on May 6, we invited the candidates in the Borders to supply statements about themselves.

There are six candidates competing in the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency – and six competing in the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale constituency.

The statements appear below in alphabetical order according to candidates' surnames.

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire

Ian Davidson (Scottish Labour)

Border Telegraph: Ian Davidson, Scottish LabourIan Davidson, Scottish Labour

Education in the Borders is failing those in greatest need.

Audit Scotland tells us that the gap in achievement between children from different economic backgrounds here is the widest in Scotland, is growing wider and that the achievement of our young people from the poorest homes is among the worst in Scotland.

At the same time, Borders General has the worst waiting time figures in Scotland, with less than 75 per cent of A&E patients being seen in 4 hours or less. In the last year, the Borders has consistently been below the Scottish average and has never reached the Scottish Government’s target figure of 95 per cent.

A comparison of road maintenance standards shows that of the 32 Scottish Councils, the Scottish Borders Council comes 30th. Again, things are getting worse. Less than 10 years ago the Borders were 20th.

With such a consistent list of failures from a Tory Council and an SNP Scottish Government no wonder the Tories and the Nats want to shout about Separation, Independence, another Referendum, the Constitution, why it is or isn’t all the fault of the English or of Westminster or of a bad boy that ran away.

By posing as polar opposites, the Tories and the Nats seek to divide the people of Scotland and to prevent an examination of their respective records in power, whether at St Boswells or Holyrood.

At a time when Scotland is suffering from the greatest health epidemic of modern times, with all its social and economic consequences, this is not the time for emphasizing division, but for concentrating on what unites us.

That’s why Labour has our focus on uniting our nation behind a National Recovery Plan, which has within it a Jobs Recovery, Health and Social Care Recovery, Education Recovery, Climate Recovery and Community Recovery.

Born and brought up in the Borders, I recognise that for the whole of the South of Scotland, Devolution has been a disappointment.

We have only ever had the crumbs from Edinburgh’s table.

Local powers, money and jobs have been sucked away and services have declined.

Scottish education, once the envy of the world and which gave me my chance in life, is but a shadow of its former glory.

People in the Borders deserve better .

FOR A CHANGE – BOTH VOTES SCOTTISH LABOUR

Rachael Hamilton (Scottish Conservatives)

Border Telegraph: Rachael Hamilton, Scottish ConservativesRachael Hamilton, Scottish Conservatives

I’m Rachael Hamilton, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist candidate for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire. I have served as the MSP for the constituency since 2017, following a by-election, gaining 53.55 per cent of the vote and a 9,000 majority.

At every turn, I have stood up and fought for my constituents. Most notably, throughout the pandemic, I have been supporting constituents and businesses with COVID-19 related matters such as sourcing financial help and dealing with concerns over vaccinations.

I have delivered real results for the Borders. I campaigned for the £10m Borderlands funding for a Borders’ Railway extension feasibility study, supported the successful re-instatement of Reston station and called for a fund to fix the crumbling roads. On the rural front, I put pressure on the SNP Government for more funding for agriculture and pushed for more resources to tackle rural crime and fly-tipping.

As the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, I worked with the Scottish Conservative strategy team, to formulate new policies to support older people and matters relating to Social Security Portfolio, such as narrowing the disability employment gap and improving digital inclusion.

Looking ahead to the election I will campaign hard for local issues. When it comes to our fantastic NHS, I want a focus on reducing waiting times, improving mental health services and protecting local GP surgeries.

As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, we must attract high quality, well-paid jobs to the Borders and improve infrastructure and digital connectivity to bolster the rural economy.

On education, I support a national tutoring programme to help pupils catch up, more rural teachers and free school breakfasts and lunches to all primary school children.

My campaign, alongside Doddie Weir OBE, continues on automatic access for people living with MND to receive a Blue Badge. Moreover, I have urged the Scottish Government to provide free dyslexia tests for adults to improve social mobility & opportunities.

I continue to strongly oppose a second independence referendum and believe we can build back better with the strength of the United Kingdom.

Barbra Harvie (Scottish Greens)

Border Telegraph: Barbra Harvie, Scottish GreensBarbra Harvie, Scottish Greens

The Scottish Green Party candidate for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, Barbra Harvie, is a semi-retired lecturer in Ecology, Environment and Countryside who lives in Selkirk.

She says: "Our isolated rural communities and small urban environments in South of Scotland have come together with resilience, determination and care to tackle the enormous challenge of COVID-19 but we are also facing a global climate emergency that can no longer be ignored.

"Scotland needs a Green recovery from the global pandemic that also confronts the global climate emergency. A recovery that will create a society that will invest in its young people and lead them towards positive futures; a recovery that will create lasting green jobs by developing and utilising Scotland’s wealth of renewable resources. Scotland should, and can, benefit from a Scottish Green New Deal for Scotland’s Workers.

"The Scottish Green Party’s manifesto will contain plans to create over 100,000 jobs to fuel a green recovery from the pandemic and tackle the climate emergency; plans to invest in renewable energy, public transport, retrofit homes to tackle fuel poverty and restore nature. Plans that will create jobs in engineering, construction, trades, forestry, tourism and more; that will be well paid and unionised (further details of each plan will be revealed during the campaign).

"Scottish Green Party co-leader Lorna Slater announced at Conference on March 27: 'The Scottish Greens have detailed investment plans that will see at least £7.5bn going to public transport, warm homes, restoring our natural environment, and the sector I work in, renewable energy, creating over 100,000 jobs in the process'.

"A Green Scotland can:

• become a progressive, unprejudiced, independent country

• create lasting green jobs by developing and utilising Scotland’s wealth of renewable resources

• create a society that invests in its young people and leads them towards positive futures

• build a wellbeing economy in Scotland that serves both workers and the public

• bring bus and rail transport back into public hands to create an affordable, reliable integrated public transport system

"I believe that the time is right for the Scottish Green Party to take its place as a major player in Scottish politics and on the global stage, to actively promote Green policies and maintain the pressure on other parties to deliver on promises made."

Jenny Marr (Scottish Liberal Democrats)

Border Telegraph: Jenny Marr, Scottish Liberal DemocratsJenny Marr, Scottish Liberal Democrats

I was brought up in Selkirk, attending Knowepark Primary and Selkirk High School before graduating from the University of Aberdeen with a degree in Politics and International Relations. Before politics I worked in the third sector as a fundraising assistant for Marie Curie, and then for international oil company National Oilwell Varco Mission Products handling customs and logistics. I now work part time as Office Manager for a member of the Scottish Parliament and as a Communications Manager for an MP. I decided to stand in the General Election in 2019 in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk because I was tired of the constitutional wrangling and wanted to bring the focus back to making a difference locally and further afield. Now, we need to put recovery from the pandemic first. From supporting tourism and local business to tackling the climate emergency, delivering a better education system, supporting the NHS, bettering mental health provision, and making the case for a truly federal UK, I will always stand up for the disadvantaged and will make fairness and tackling inequality central to everything I want to achieve. I want to remove the barriers to opportunity which face rural areas more than others. Everyone should have the chance of living the life they want and to be as successful as possible. During the last year the curtains have been pulled back on where the help is most needed and we need to have a needle sharp focus on getting help to all those in that position. Ultimately, I want to tackle to the root of inequality which is poverty, and keep the climate crisis at the top of everyone’s agenda. We know our country is wracked by constitutional division and inequality so now our representatives need to focus on healing and serving communities to the best of their ability at a time when it has never mattered more. That’s what I will do.

Jesse Rae (Independent)

Border Telegraph: Jesse Rae, independent candidateJesse Rae, independent candidate

Those that know me, are probably a' the kids and pupils of Hawick High School , Berwickshire High School, Duns Primary, Langlee Primary, and Philiphaugh Primary – all of which I gave ye yer own Radio and TV Station in 2007 and 2009. Yer a' grown up now and able tae vote. I hope ye feel that the confidence ye gained frae being involved in running, producing, announcing, DJ-ing, researching, managing and presenting out on Radio FM tae yer communities in each o'these towns a' by yer sels (with me at the other end o' the ISDN line recording it a frae Clintmains) helped ye not only get real work experience, but as I found by the response frae yer teachers helped ye dae well in yer school work after the experience,and excel in yer curriculum. I am very proud o' ye a' and I know ye a' because I came intae yer schools and personally recorded a voice over o'every one ye...including teachers, support ,dinner ladies, jannies and cleaners. Now on May 6 all o' ye that are 16 and able tae vote, I need yer support. The young people in the Scottish Borders have been let doon for sae long. Ever since I came back frae the USA in 1984 tae get married tae my World Champion Tenor Drummer lassie Audrey in my Award Winning (and in the Top 100 Music Videos in the World) 'Over The Sea', bring up my three sons Cuillin, Clinton and Cairn, in the best place in the world, I look around ,and nothing has changed for the prospects of young Borderers. So, I have decided tae stand as an Independent MSP candidate tae change it for once a'. Yer a' funktastic, talented people, and if like me, who was born in the cottage hospital Gala, went tae school in Newtown and St. Boswells Primary and Kelso High school , wrote a number one hit in the American Soul and Funk charts with 'Inside Out', Pioneered Music Video in the States with the first on Home Box Office, TimeLife,was awarded Endowment of the Arts in Washington DC. First Video single in the US with Sony. Came Hame tae Bosils and worked at West Cumberland Farmers dae'n tatties and farm laboured ,then went oot again and worked on the floor o' New York Stock Exchange tae make money for my Music Videos,and music. Pioneered ISDN Broadcasting for BT in 1995 ( how ye got yer radio stations I gave ye) which was the start of all yer social network,Facebook,Zoom that ye use now.I'm still Song writing ,Performing ,Filming Producing and directing , I'm Funk Ambassador tae Scotland for The Funk Music Hall Of Fame and Exhibition Centre in Dayton Ohio and Lecture on Scots Funk Music at the Dayton University Funk Symposium and Trustee of the Wallace Statue. I've made a pledge tae ye a' tae make Ettrick Roxburgh and Berwickshire AND the surrounding area,the wealthiest, and best place in the Borders and Scotland. A' I need is yer same belief in me tae make it happen,as I believe in you.

Paul Wheelhouse (Scottish National Party)

Border Telegraph: Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish National PartyPaul Wheelhouse, Scottish National Party

Paul Wheelhouse lives in Ayton, near Eyemouth, and has lived on the Berwickshire Coast for 21 years, having initially moved to Cove, near Cockburnspath. Paul, who is a former Co’path and then Ayton community councillor, can trace his roots to the 18th Century in Bonchester. He was born near Belfast in 1970 and moved to Scotland as a three-year-old. He was educated in Edinburgh before studying for his honours degree in Economics at University of Aberdeen, before embarking on a 19-year career as a professional economist. In 1999, Paul graduated with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from University of Edinburgh. A keen rugby player at school, Paul is a fan of both rugby and football, and has a keen interest in local history and genealogy. Paul has one son.

Paul has served as a South Scotland MSP since 2011. In the last five years alone, Paul and his team have helped or supported more than 10,000 constituents from his office in Hawick. Paul is an experienced parliamentarian and minister, having led seven Acts through Parliament – most recently legislating on Heat networks. Indeed, after serving for a year on the Parliament’s Finance Committee and Standards Committee, Paul was appointed within the Scottish Government in 2012, as Minister for Environment and Climate Change, in which role he served until November 2014. In Nicola Sturgeon’s first ministerial team following her appointment, Paul was appointed Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs and, following, the 2016 election, became Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy. In June 2018, Paul’s portfolio was modified; retaining Energy and taking over digital infrastructure investment in broadband and mobile, as well as the Islands portfolio, as Minister for Energy, Connectivity & the Islands. Since 2016, he has led the Scottish Government’s Energy Strategy and the transition of Scotland’s energy system, delivering the equivalent of some 97 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand in 2020 from renewable electricity sources. Paul has stood as SNP candidate for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire in 2011 and 2016, increasing his Party’s vote from 16 per cent (in 2007) to 32 per cent by 2016.

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale

Dominic Ashmole (Scottish Greens)

Border Telegraph: Dominic Ashmole, Scottish GreensDominic Ashmole, Scottish Greens

I am a fan of science and technology. Indeed, I spent years at an Edinburgh healthcare technology company, collaborating with universities and NHS Scotland on artificial intelligence software for cancer screening and diagnosis of stroke.

Throughout this pandemic we have seen the power of our country’s science base. Despite bumps in the road, the roll-out of testing and multiple vaccines has been impressive.

But the pandemic tells another story too – of warnings ignored and preparations left unmade. We could and should have had a better plan for one of the highest-ranked known public health risks. We must learn from this collective failure.

Scientists have warned for decades that the world is heading towards climate breakdown. They also now speak of a “nature emergency” – an era of mass extinctions caused by humans. Yet greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere relentlessly rise and our forests and oceans continue in dangerous decline. Nowadays, I see scientists practically weeping as they watch this unravelling accelerate, with no believable action plan from politicians.

The Scottish Greens recognise that technology will play a huge part in stepping us back from the brink. Our co-leader Lorna Slater is a renewable energy engineer, and our proposed £10bn Green Recovery investment programme will fund thousands of high-quality, unionised Scottish jobs in renewables. But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s mostly not technology we lack, it’s political will.

The Greens will invest massively in warm homes – upgrading insulation and converting to low-carbon heating systems. We have bold plans to improve rail, bus and active travel, and already won free bus travel for under-22s from this summer. Finally, we propose an urgent programme to repair nature, dramatically accelerating the positive steps already taken by rural businesses, workers and charities.

These solutions are not high-tech, not “sexy” and may not generate huge profits for international investors and a rich elite. But they’re effective, labour-intensive, local, and fair.

This election is our chance to tackle the climate emergency, to build a green recovery, and to secure our future as an independent European country. Please vote like our future depends on it. Vote Scottish Greens.

Michael Banks (Vanguard Party)

Michael Banks is a retired barrister and Vanguard Party's candidate for Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale, and heads the party's list for South Scotland. He has lived in the Scottish Borders for 20 years.

Vanguard Party champions the Union and Brexit. The UK, four nations in union, will prosper as an independent country, outwith the EU. If Scotland were to leave the Union and join the EU, it would not be an independent country. It would be a rule-taker from Brussels. There would be a hard border with the rest of the UK. Scottish exports to the rest of the UK are currently worth three times those to the EU. Funding via the Barnett formula would end. Scots would lose British citizenship.

Vanguard Party believes Scotland's future should be decided by the people, not the courts. However, independence is not practical without the support of a simple majority (50 per cent + 1) of the registered electorate, not merely a simple majority of valid votes. IndyRef2 must require a simple majority of the registered electorate of the whole of Scotland, for the whole of Scotland to leave. In 2014 only 38 per cent of the registered electorate of the whole of Scotland voted for independence.

Vanguard Party will preserve the distinction between sex and gender. It will protect women's rights to same-sex spaces. It will oppose self-identification. It will oppose any denial of biological truth.

Vanguard Party will champion children of disadvantaged backgrounds by providing help and support to raise attainment. It will not promote quotas and targets that may excuse lower attainment.

Vanguard Party will champion the NHS. It will recognise the true worth of all NHS staff. It will tackle hospital waiting lists and support GPs to resume face-to-face appointments for all.

Vanguard Party will abolish hate crime including incitement of hatred in people's minds. It will require crimes to be based on evidence, tested objectively, not on subjective perceptions of victims or others.

Vanguard Party will champion traditional values and culture. It will take back control of British institutions and push back against the tyranny of woke.

*Please note: Michael Banks of the Vanguard Party did not supply a photograph to this newspaper

Christine Grahame (Scottish National Party)

Border Telegraph: Christine Grahame, Scottish National PartyChristine Grahame, Scottish National Party

I am privileged to be a member of the Scottish Parliament since 1999, representing the constituency for ten years. Most important was keeping in touch with you through my surgeries: in supermarkets, libraries, and my annual summer surgery tour through the villages. This past year of course has changed everything. We have all been stuck at home keeping in touch through emails. COVID has dominated and I have tried to help you with the problems it brought in its wake. Moving now through vaccination, queries arise as you await that appointment. At the same time other issues continue: unsuitable housing, planning concerns. This is the essential work and duty of an MSP to constituents no matter what their politics. I hope I have discharged that duty. I have also chaired the parliament’s cross-party group on animal welfare for many years with two Bills to my name: The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, now law, putting the blame on the owner not the dog and The Welfare of Dogs (Scotland) Bill which aims to end casual purchase of puppies. COVID prevented it proceeding but if elected I intend to bring it back, especially with concern that some of those "COVID" puppies will end up in animal rescue centres. Yes, how life has changed, COVID has been hard: losing a business built over years, living with children trapped in a flat, not attending a funeral, delaying the wedding, the new baby not socialising with family. The list is endless of the sacrifices, the losses. COVID has broken the link with the way we were, just as those World Wars changed society. Nicola Sturgeon has demonstrated true leadership and moving to recovery it must not be back to the same old, same old but to a socially just society, valuing people from cradle to grave, our public services, rejoining the EU as an independent nation. On May 6, I ask for your constituency vote on my record as your MSP and the list vote for the SNP, giving you and Scotland a democratic choice to move forward as a renewed nation.

Shona Haslam (Scottish Conservatives)

Border Telegraph: Shona Haslam, Scottish ConservativesShona Haslam, Scottish Conservatives

On Thursday, May 6, voters are faced with a choice. Rebuild our communities after the pandemic; by improving our children’s education, delivering record funding to our NHS and enhancing employment opportunities, or, once again, reopen the question of Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom.

Make no mistake: the next few weeks will see one of the most important elections of our lifetime.

Nicola Sturgeon has demonstrated recently that she only cares about one thing, an independence referendum that most Scots do not want but one that she will still foist upon them anyway. The past year has been tough for us all. Many of us have struggled with the pressures of lockdown, myself included. But the way to recover from this pandemic is not to launch into another constitutional argument that threatens our livelihoods, our children’s futures and our way of life.

As a mum to two lovely boys, I want to see a government that puts aside its own agenda and commits to focusing on what’s best for the next generation of Scots. “Judge me on my record” said Nicola Sturgeon on education. Well, the attainment gap remains as large as it ever was, and Scotland’s education system has plummeted in international rankings. It would seem the First Minister has been found wanting.

It’s not just our schools that under threat; other public services are too. As leader of the Scottish Borders Council, I have fought tirelessly against repeated cuts to our budget, forcing councillors to make difficult choices simply because the Scottish Government finds it easier to pass the buck. After the strain of COVID, we need a Scottish Government that will step up, empower councils and work with them, not against them.

But if the SNP gain enough seats to form a majority in May then all that is at risk. Once again, they will push for another divisive referendum.

There is only one way to stop that: lend me your constituency vote, and the Scottish Conservatives your party vote, on May 6.

AC (Adrian) May (Scottish Liberal Democrats)

Border Telegraph: AC May, Scottish Liberal DemocratsAC May, Scottish Liberal Democrats

I intend to represent you the only way I know how - by working tirelessly with a keen eye on the future to ensure that there is investment and improvement in education, employment opportunities and business growth. I will stand up for better funded healthcare and demand that money is directed towards care homes, mental health and wellbeing to bring these up to the standards we all deserve. To do this will need a strong economy and the Scottish Liberal Democrats are putting recovery first – this must be Scotland’s priority. A vote for me is a vote of confidence for a more secure future for you and your families.

It's time for a change. The area needs someone who will heed the concerns of constituents, and voice these strongly in parliament, not just another person sitting in Holyrood applauding every word of the First Minister.

Prior to the boundary changes, the Scottish Liberal Democrats had a long record of success here, and it's high-time for a return to rational, clear thinking on the issues that matter locally and nationally.

Our high streets and town centres – the beating heart of our communities – need urgent help. This was apparent before the pandemic, but even more so now. Online commerce can bring tremendous benefits and is here to stay. Many businesses have transformed to the new normal, but many others have struggled. We need to focus on how growing online spend can coexist with a vibrant local economy, and work to restore community feeling.

I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the campaign. By their own admission, a divided Tory party has mishandled Brexit, driving Scottish voters in desperation towards nationalism, while the opportunist and populist SNP seeks to compound the disaster of Brexit by withdrawing from the UK completely, just at the point when we need economic recovery the most.

A vote for me is a vote for progress through strong partnerships within Scotland, across the UK and with our European neighbours, so that together we can recover from the COVID crisis and move beyond the politics of division.

Katherine Sangster (Scottish Labour)

Border Telegraph: Katherine Sangster, Scottish LabourKatherine Sangster, Scottish Labour

COVID-19’s impact on our families, our communities and our economy has been profound. We now need to start the hard work of rebuilding our country and that task needs new faces, fresh ideas and experience outside of Holyrood.

I am a working parent who prior to 2015 had never been involved in politics. However, I like many other parents soon realised that the SNP’s childcare policies sound good on the back of an election leaflet but don’t work in practice. So, in 2015, I campaigned for fairer access to childcare and led Fair Funding for our Kids - a nationwide campaign that got childcare on to the national agenda, building a movement of mums that demanded action from Government. Our campaign secured more funded childcare from Government - a step towards equality, but there is still plenty to be done.

Soon, I was speaking on television, writing for newspapers and lobbying politicians. All things I has never done before but I was speaking from the heart and articulating mine and others’ experience. Now with five years plus experience in politics I still firmly believe that policy is best made by those with lived experience and the job of a politician is to listen and advocate on peoples behalf, and I will always put that at the heart of what I do.

Working for an MP now, every day I support people with the issues that blight their lives from poor housing to an inhumane benefits system to bins not getting picked up. These are issues that affect people day in day out. Chatting to voters and speaking to constituents, I have experienced no appetite for debate on a second referendum just a desire from people that we as politicians and aspiring politicians listen to their concerns and respond to those concerns.

We need to elect MSPs to Holyrood who understand these concerns and will fully use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to make people’s lives better. Holyrood is one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world lets start using those powers. As Donald Dewar said at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 “A Scottish Parliament, not an end but a means to greater ends”.

On May 6 please use your vote carefully and let’s start the task of uniting our country behind our national recovery.