Tuesday 4 May 2021

#SP21 MAY ELECTION: Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire overview

SGA members have made us aware they would like to know more about the Election on May 6th and candidates they can vote for. 

We have been providing overview information on several seats (relevant to members) prior to the Election #SP21. (see other overviews on our website news pages) https://news.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk

Please note: The SGA is not affiliated to any political party. The information is intended only as a helpful guide, offered from the perspective of members' interests, as requested.

People should vote according to personal choice. However, we will give advice for circumstances in which people would wish to vote solely for the purposes of protecting their profession.

In looking at seats, we have provided an analysis based on what candidates have done for rural workers in Holyrood (track record) or, if not yet elected, looked at standpoints on issues to gauge where they might sit in relation to workers on river and land.

Overview: Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire

What Choices will you have on the ballot paper?

On May 6th, voters will get the opportunity to vote for which person they want as their Constituency MSP in Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire. This person will be an individual representing a party (White coloured paper).

Voters will also get the opportunity to vote for a Party in the Regional List (Peach coloured paper) for South Scotland.

For the Constituency vote (white paper), the person with the highest number of votes becomes the Constituency MSP. In the regional list (peach paper) a total of 7 MSPs are selected to represent the South Scotland region.

This allocation is worked out around the share of the party vote on the peach paper. If a party has already won the Constituency seat, they will win less regional list seats in that region. The system is designed this way to avoid any one party dominating.

About Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire

This seat is one of the safest Conservative seats in the country and, although the SNP and their candidate, Paul Wheelhouse, will want to continue to build some momentum, even the pro-Independence National newspaper is tipping this as a comfortable Conservative hold. 

For that reason, the battle lines may be more keenly drawn on the peach paper for the South of Scotland region.

John Lamont won this seat for the Conservatives in 2016 before departing for Westminster. Rachael Hamilton, who previously sat as a South Scotland list MSP fought the 2017 by-election for the seat and secured a resounding victory for the Conservatives, building on Lamont's majority.

On the white paper, therefore, it looks as if the only way the Conservatives could lose the seat is if their vote doesn't turn out on Thursday.

For the SNP, they will focus on the peach paper vote for South Scotland and trying to get as much vote share as possible, there. The Conservatives will be pushing for a vote for them on both the white and peach papers but pro-Union voters may choose to use their second vote tactically (more later).

Rachael Hamilton (Conservative) actively engages with SGA members in her region and has been consistently supportive at both Holyrood and in the constituency on a number of issues. Well informed about rural issues, she raised the plight of declining Atlantic Salmon during the last term and recently sent supportive messages regarding the Rural Workers' Protest, #RWP21. 

Paul Wheelhouse gained a depth of experience of rural issues as Environment Minister and engaged with the SGA during this time. General Licence restrictions were introduced during his tenure and, although supportive of responsible land management, he was heavily lobbied by conservation NGOs as a junior Minister. His feelings towards the game sector are difficult to accurately judge.

On the peach paper (regional list) for South Scotland, voters will have no fewer than 16 parties to choose from. 

Amongst the choice of parties will be pro-Union newcomers, All for Unity, who will be hoping to muster support in this key region.  It is possible that those voting to oppose a referendum could opt for them on the peach paper, given the probability of a Conservative hold on the white paper.

All for Unity manifesto: https://www.alliance4unity.uk/manifesto/

Both Jamie Blackett and George Galloway are on the regional list in South Scotland for them.

Jamie Blackett is himself a land manager and is supportive of the SGA's work. Both he and George Galloway posted films in support of the Rural Workers' Protest, #RWP21, and Jamie Blackett attended the SGA Political hustings, alongside others. See George Galloway's film, here: https://twitter.com/ScotGamekeepers/status/1372922136495583241?s=20

One worry SGA members have been contacting our office about is whether a vote for SNP means they get the Greens as part of the deal. 

The Green Party recently published its manifesto which pledges to end, what it terms, bloodsports’ including shooting and angling. They will ban driven grouse shooting, reintroduce species and incentivise the removal of sheep from the hills. 

For those seeking to vote in terms of their employment, specifically, the Green manifesto represents the likely loss of over 13 000 rural workers’ jobs. See their manifesto, here: https://greens.scot/ourfuture

Should the SNP fail to win an outright majority at this election (which current polling shows is possible) they may again choose to join with the Greens in order to form a majority. Given the Greens’ unhidden desire to end the employment interests of sections of the rural workforce, SGA members should make themselves aware of the dangers in this possibility.

Give this, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seeking reassurances for rural workers that any potential SNP/Green pact will not mean Scottish Government adopting the Green manifesto pledges, mentioned above, which will be so damaging for rural workers and their families. You can read the Chairmans letter, here. To date, we have not had a response from the First Minister. 


On whether an SNP/Green pact might comes to pass, leader of the Greens, Patrick Harvie, was quoted in the Scotsman newspaper on April 30 saying, that 'most of our members would be willing to have the conversation' after the Election. (below)

To find all candidates standing in Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire plus South Scotland region- (and all the other Scottish constituencies)- see: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/politics/6918475/scottish-election-full-candidate-list-standing-my-area/

*This seat analysis, which fulfils a requirement of our members to provide voting information on their behalf, has been produced by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, a Company limited by guarantee, Company number SC386843.