While I relish the opportunity to ask the people of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk to re-elect me on 8 June, it’s clear that the Prime Minister’s decision to call a snap general election was cynical on a number of levels.
Whether it’s the Tory election expenses scandal, the desire to minimise scrutiny of the Government’s rudderless approach to Brexit, or an obvious desire to take advantage of a Labour Party in chaos: the decision to go to the polls was clearly taken in the interests of the Tory Party, not the country itself.
The Prime Minister has also run roughshod over local democracy: with campaigning for the general election due to start two days before voters elect their councillors.
In UK politics, and politics in general, cynicism has become far too prevalent.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have an election in the Borders that is a credit to our region.
As one of the most marginal seats in the country, the eyes of the whole country will be on us.
This means it will be a tough contest. For many, our region will be seen as the frontline in a national campaign by the Tories to mobilise tactical voting around the constitutional question.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 45 years as a Borderer, it’s that we don’t play by other people’s rules.
So I want to take the opportunity at this election, when so many people will be watching us so intently, to focus on issues that matter to the Borders, to showcase our enormous potential, and press the case for transformational investment in our region.
I’ll also be asking hard-Brexit supporting candidates to explain what they’ll do to fill the black hole when the current farm support payments regime – worth £61.5 million to our region in 2013 and accounting for 3.2% of our GDP – is scrapped by the UK Government in 2020.
We also need to have a grown up discussion about connectivity. I’ve brought forward plans through the Borders Digital Forum that will see the world’s fastest rural broadband scheme launch community pilots in the Borders. Over the coming years, I want our region to become a model for world-class rural digital infrastructure.
As the Scottish Government takes forward its feasibility study on Borders Railway extension, I’ll be challenging other candidates to join me in a cross-party declaration of support for the full restoration of the Waverley Line to Hawick and on to Carlisle.
Since I was elected two years ago I have worked with people of all parties and none in order to get results for the Borders. I cannot overstate how much of an honour it has been to represent the part of the country that I’m proud to call home.
Today, I’m committing to run a campaign that is squarely focused on our region and how it can best be represented at Westminster.
I hope that the other candidates in this election will join me in doing the same.