CONSERVATIVE MSP John Lamont represents residents of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire in the Scottish Parliament. Here, he writes exclusively for readers of the Border Telegraph...

SELKIRK COMMON RIDING: It was a pleasure to give a couple of toasts at the Selkirk Common Riding Festival this year. I was very honoured to be asked to take part in the Selkirk United Crafts Dinner and the Selkirk Ex-Standard Bearer’s Association Dinner. Both events were really well attended with some very interesting speeches made during the course of the evening.

I am always delighted to take part in any of the Common Riding or festivals in the Borders as they are a key part of what makes our region so unique. And as I said during those speeches, the Common Riding festivals really highlight the strength of close knit communities.

People are all too quick to say these days that communities aren’t what they used to be, that the ties which used bind people together are all but lost. Well, I would challenge anyone who thinks this to come to any of the Borders towns holding a festival during the summer to see for themselves what a confident, close knit community looks like. We have the long history of the festivals to thank for sowing the seeds of a united community. But it is the men and women of the Borders today, the riders, the organisers, the men and women who come out in their hundreds to witness the events, who are keeping this community alive.  CAP REFORM: We have now passed the deadline for 22,000 farmers in Scotland to submit online application forms for CAP payments. This whole process has been littered with difficulties and I have been contacted by a large number of farmers in the past few months who complain about the complicated system crashing constantly and a lack of support. Unfortunately, the Scottish Government’s response to all this has been complacent to say the least. It was only in the final week before the deadline that they accepted problems were happening and actually introduced some, very limited, changes.

The only people who will suffer from the Scottish Government’s shoddy response are farmers and I don’t think that is acceptable. Now that the application deadline has passed, my concern is that, because it was put back by a month, this may mean CAP payments which are due in December, might also be delayed. The Scottish Government has been quiet on this point. When I last asked about it in the Scottish Parliament, Richard Lochhead tried to make a joke rather than answer the question. I will continue to question the Government on the December payment schedule, because I know that cash-flow is a real concern for many farmers.

VOLUNTEERS’ WEEK: I was very pleased to lend my support to Volunteers Week by attending a celebration at Mungo Park Court in Selkirk recently. I always enjoy visiting this care-home and this time I helped to present volunteers with certificates and thank them for all their hard work over the year.

Volunteers’ Week is a nationwide event to celebrate the work of thousands volunteers who give up their time to help others. I know that hundreds of people in the Borders give up their time in a huge variety of ways, at care homes, after school clubs, fundraising for good causes and helping out in charity shops. It’s really important that we take the time to recognise the great work done by these individuals.