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Constituency report: Dumfries and Galloway

Photo: ITV Border

Dumfries and Galloway constituency has been served by a Labour MP since its creation.

Russell Brown won the seat when it was formed in 2005, but he had been an MP in the area since 1997.

Before then, the regions that make up the current constituency had largely voted Conservative.

This year, no seat is considered safe, and with the Conservatives, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, and Labour all hoping to take Dumfries and Galloway, the result is unpredictable.

Credit: ITV Border

The constituency

The constituency, with its current boundaries, was created 10 years ago.

It covers 2,500 square miles of mostly rural landscape, and stretches from Stranraer and the Galloway Peninsula in the west, to Dumfries in the east.

At the 2010 General Election, the breakdown of the result was as follows:

Russel Brown was 14.3% ahead of his closest rival from the Conservative Party Credit: ITV Border

So what issues are important to voters in the constituency?

At a glance:

  • Farming is a big industry, particularly dairy production
  • Tourism is a growing sector
  • The arts, and arts festivals, are becoming increasingly important to the local economy

Ahead of May's vote, farmers, who form much of the constituency's population, are concerned about the UK's distribution of money from Europe:

The United Kingdom was allocated €230 million and it was divided out throughout the United Kingdom but the only reason we qualified for that was because Scotland was on such a meagre payment per area and we are on area based payments now. A farmer in Northumberland and a farmer in Berwickshire should be on the same payment if they are arable farmers, the same as a stock farmer in Dumfries and Galloway with a stock farmer in Cumbria."

– Andrew McCornick, Vice-President of NFU Scotland

For business owners, transport and communication are important issues.

Some, who are hoping for the region to become a tourist hotspot, think problems with phone and internet signals need to be addressed for the sector to grow.

Dumfries and Galloway is a real missed gem, when people find it they love it and they keep coming back, but we are lacking with transport, our transport links aren't good enough, but maybe that's one of our benefits. Broadband is awful, 3G coverage doesn't exist, and this is what our customers are looking for, they want their comforts of home but we haven't got that and it's something that we really need to focus on."

– Duncan McConchie, Manager of Laggan Outdoor

And while the rural landscape is inspiring, those involved in the burgeoning arts scene in Dumfries and Galloway believe more resources need to be dedicated to ensuring its long-term growth.

What people aren't quite grasping is in the long-term, the importance of the arts is more about the sense of ownership that people get with creativity, you are teaching people to be innovative and confident, and I don't think that that's quite grasped in terms of the long term. And I think that that needs to be recognised so that money is invested into residencies and art workshops that are over a sustained period of time."

– Katharine Wheeler, Artist

The candidates

We asked some of the candidates standing for election on May 7 to tell us what it is that they think matters in the constituency:

Scottish Labour candidate Russell Brown Credit: ITV Border

I realise how tough the last five years have been for people, we have got a sad lack of opportunity for young people and all that young people want is a chance to prove themselves. Our NHS is stretched to the limits and when we talk about hard working people, we need look no further than NHS staff who are doing their level best. We have got a situation where, quite frankly we are not seeing an economic recovery here and what people are faced with is a stark choice, we have got to get rid of this Conservative Government and only Labour will be able to deliver a different future."

– Russell Brown, Scottish Labour candidate
Scottish Conservative candidate Finlay Carson Credit: ITV Border

We need to see more investment in our trunk roads, the A75, 77 and 76 have been neglected over the past 12 years, so that is something we need to do. But also on a nation wide basis, we have got a Conservative Government who has delivered 100 jobs every day since the last election and we have got 55,000 less people on job seekers allowance and the country is getting back on it's feet, we have the strongest economy of any of the top economies in the western world and we need to keep working at that."

– Finlay Carson, Scottish Conservative candidate
Scottish Liberal Democrats candidate Andrew Metcalf Credit: ITV Border

I'm going to be campaigning on local issues, issues where we need to improve the people's welfare, there are very many local paid jobs, we need to increase that pay. The Liberal Democrats have also been in government for a period of five years have increased the thresholds which has given every individual, every individual, irrelevant to what they earn, £825."

– Andrew Metcalf, Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate
Scottish National Party candidate Richard Arkless Credit: ITV Border

The primary issue for me is the austerity agenda of the Westminster system. The further cuts that have just been announced by all parties will impact this region disproportionately. We have lower wages, we have higher reliance on the public sector, high reliance on the rural economy, much more distance to travel and that gap will only widen with these further austerity cuts. What the SNP are saying is that we have an alternative, we are not saying we don't deal with the deficit, we just spread it over a longer term, the markets are happy and we avoid the moral and economic consequences that we think are completely unconscionable."

– Richard Arkless, Scottish National Party candidate

The following is a list of all the candidates standing for election in Dumfries and Galloway:

  • Richard Arkless (SNP)
  • Russell Leslie Brown (Scottish Labour)
  • Finlay Hamilton Carson (Scottish Conservatives)
  • Andrew Robert Metcalf (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
  • Geoff Siddall (UKIP)

Watch Fiona McIlwraith's full report on the Dumfries and Galloway constituency:

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