Election: First Borders hustings to test candidates on green credentials

Donald McPhillimy, chairman of Greener Melrose, will chair the debate.
Donald McPhillimy, chairman of Greener Melrose, will chair the debate.
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The region’s general election candidates are set to clash at a hustings in Melrose next week. 

Organised by various ecological groups, and led by Greener Melrose, the hustings, set to take place on Wednesday, November 27, will focus on environmental issues first and foremost. 

In attendance will be all four of the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk candidates: John Lamont (Conservative); Calum Kerr (SNP); Jenny Marr (Lib Dems); and Ian Davidson (Labour).

The chair of Greener Melrose, Donald McPhillimy, explained: “What makes this different from anyone else is that this is the first time a hustings will focus on green issues. 

“We think green issues are more important even than Brexit. We know things like the NHS are important, but the survival of our climate is huge. 

“This is our once-in-five-years opportunity to say who we want to represent us.

“The format will be similar to the BBC’s Question Time format. There will be a chair, myself, and the four participants, and they we will hear pre-prepared questions from members of the audience that will then be farmed out to the candidates. 

“There will also be opportunities for audience members to come in with points or questions. 

“We’re expecting a good turnout, the venue holds about 80 people and we’re not selling tickets, so it’s first come first served.”

The hustings will take place at Marmions Place, The Wynd, Melrose, with doors opening at 7pm. 

As well as Greener Melrose, some of the contributing organisation are: Borders Forest Trust; Borders Organic Gardeners; Eco Congregations Central Borders; John Muir Trust; Melrose and District Fair-Trade Town; Melrose Paths Group; the Royal Scottish Forestry Society; and Tweedgreen. 

Extinction Rebellion Scottish Borders also have local groups covering the six different areas in the region.

A press release from Greener Melrose reads: “Scientists tell us that governments have just five years to legislate for building the path to sustainability, keeping levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere no higher than 1.5%.

“Deep structural changes to our current economic systems are needed if the climate crisis is to be addressed effectively and fairly. 

“Recognising that we are now in a climate emergency, Greener Melrose, along with other Greener Borders groups have joined with Extinction Rebellion Scottish Borders, to put the election campaign spotlight on the planet rather than Brexit, which has never been a declared emergency.

“The groups are holding a green hustings to ask prospective candidates how their proposed policies will secure the safe pathway to environmental sustainability that the country and the world needs.”

Mr McPhillimy added: “Green groups in the Borders are well established and are active around the region. 

“We’ve collaborated with each other on projects and campaigns for a number of years – and this is definitely the way to go to be most effective and reach the greatest number of people.

“For this general election we need to know what the political parties are proposing in the way of transformational and greening policies for our health, education and transport services, our agriculture, food production and employment strategies, for our house building and the restoration of our ecosystems. These all have an effect on the climate.

“And what of trade policies, when or if we leave the EU?

“How will a new government address the issues affecting the world’s poorest communities, the smallholders who produce 70% of the world’s food, who’ve done least to cause this climate crisis, but who are already struggling to live with the effects of climate change?”