Association AGM

All the outgoing officers of the Association were unanimously re-elected for the coming year and Alison Salvesen was elected to the Executive Committee, with Craig Wood standing down from this committee due to ill health and Moira Hughes resigning on account of her recent appointment.

Robert Miller-Bakewell and David Williamson were able to report that in the course of the year the Association had succeeded in eliminating its accumulated deficit and had ended the year with a small surplus. Revenue from all sources and membership were both up on the previous year and, shortly after the close of the reporting year, the Association began its move to its new offices in St Boswells.

Scott Oxburgh, the campaign manager for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, outlined the campaigning activities that were being undertaken and anyone who is able to help in any way should contact him on 07887 567620 or ross.oxburgh@scottishconservatives.com. Will Holloway, campaign manager for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, did the same for his constituency and anyone from Tweeddale wishing to help should contact Will on 07949 302787 or will.holoway@scottishconservatives.com. Both commented on how actively the SNP was canvassing and the need for us to work hard to win these seats despite the massive No votes that they returned in the referendum.

John Lamont MSP, PPC, talked about how political sentiment had shifted in the run up to the referendum and afterwards. Although the Borders had returned a very strong No vote in the referendum and turn out had been high, a significant proportion of Liberal Democrat and Labour supporters had voted Yes and the indications were that many of these had decided to support the SNP in the coming general election. Our support was holding up very well and growing whereas that for the Liberal Democrats had evaporated and much had transferred to the SNP. In the referendum, with just two possible choices, a vote of 33% was insufficient to win. In the general election, with 5, 6 or perhaps more candidates, a vote of 33% could come close to winning. In the last general election our main opponents were the Liberal Democrats but in the coming one it will be the SNP and we need to hammer home the message to all who support the Union that they need to vote for John to prevent the SNP using the result of the general election as a means of reopening the independence question.

Councillor Michelle Ballantyne, the leader of the Conservative group on the Scottish Borders Council, reported on developments over the last year, including changes to waste collection and management and the Council's own governance model. She also highlighted tensions in the relationship between the Scottish government and Scottish local authorities and how this was having an impact at the local level. For example, an off-balance sheet borrowing mechanism had been used to fund a substantial number of Scottish infrastructure projects and the EU had now queried this. As a result, several school building projects, including Kelso's proposed new High School, have had to be put on hold. More generally, the Scottish government is adopting an increasingly authoritarian line in its dealings with local authorities and threatening to withhold funds unless they follow its instructions. Michelle is also our PPC for Midlothian at the coming general election and would welcome any support members living in the northern part of our area could offer.

The meeting was brought to a close by the Association President, Lord Sanderson, who offered us a succinct rundown of the unjoined up thinking that is Scottish energy policy. And with that the lights went out.