RACHAEL Hamilton says she is “absolutely ecstatic” after being re-elected as the MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.

Mrs Hamilton, of the Scottish Conservatives, received 18,564 votes in the Scottish Parliament contest, while runner-up Paul Wheelhouse from the SNP recorded 11,701. 

Mrs Hamilton, who won the 2017 by-election, will now return to Holyrood as the constituency representative.

'Important to protect jobs'

After the result was declared, Mrs Hamilton told the Border Telegraph: “I think this is fantastic.

"It speaks volumes of the work my team have done and the support for the Scottish Conservatives in the Borders. 

“I think the voters in the Borders have rejected what could have been Nicola Sturgeon calling for a hard border at Berwick. It’s really important that we focus now on rebuilding the economy and looking after people’s livelihoods and their incomes. 

“It’s important that we protect jobs and we ensure that the NHS can get back on its feet after all this time that it has had to focus on the pandemic. There are people out there who have had cancelled operations and they’re waiting for them. 

“It’ll be my focus that we ensure that we just get back to normal and we concentrate on that and not a border or independence."

'I want to end the division'

Asked what her priority for the region is, Mrs Hamilton said: “My main focus is to end the division and work towards rebuilding the Borders. It’s very difficult to do anything else other than to rebuild an economy and protect jobs. 

“I think it’s important to look after young people and their education because obviously there’s a massive catch-up exercise that needs to be done because kids haven’t had face-to-face learning, they’ve been learning from home. They’re only just back at school. 

“There are young people who are going to have suffered from the fact that they haven’t had that face-to-face learning and I think it’s important that we resource our schools to ensure that those kids can catch up.”

Wheelhouse 'disappointed'

Mr Wheelhouse also spoke to the Border Telegraph after the declaration.

He said: “I’m obviously disappointed because I dearly wanted to represent this constituency, but I congratulate Rachael for her win. 

“I take comfort from the fact that our vote has increased. It’s the largest number of votes we’ve had in this seat and the largest share of the votes we’ve had in this seat so that’s encouraging, but clearly I wanted to win so I’m disappointed in that. 

“I’m pleased for the activists that we got an increase in the votes for all their efforts. 

“It’s a small swing but it’s significant that we’re still on the up. I’ve yet to see what the pattern is across the country, we know that we’ve got a tough task here in terms of the constitutional question causes a polarisation in the electorate. 

“Maybe people are voting on constitutional grounds rather than necessarily who they think could be the best representative for the area.”

'We’re not going away'

Reflecting on the campaign, Mr Wheelhouse said: “We’ll keep plugging away, being positive. We put across a really positive campaign which I’m very proud of. 

“We didn’t focus on attacking the opposition, we focused on showing what we could do for the area and I hope that might inspire some ideas for others to pick up. 

“I just hope that Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire gets good representation for the next five years, it does deserve it. 

“I hope for this constituency’s sake that Rachael can step up to the plate and can do that but we’ll certainly still be around. 

“We’re not going away. If she fails we’ll be looking to take the seat next time.”