HOLYROOD election candidates in the Tweeddale and Lauderdale constituency were grilled during a hustings on Wednesday evening.

The event, held over Zoom, was organised by environmental group Tweedgreen and the Tweeddale Peace Group.

The candidates were Dominic Ashmole for the Scottish Green Party, Shona Haslam for the Scottish Conservatives, Christine Grahame for the SNP, Katherine Sangster for Scottish Labour and AC May for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Questions from members of the public were on topics including nuclear weapons, agriculture diversification, gas and oil exploration, and the coronavirus vaccine.

The chairwoman, Lesley Morrison, said: “Speaking on behalf of Tweedgreen and the Tweeddale Peace Group, what occurs to me is there is a certain lack of urgency coming from some of the candidates’ responses to some of the questions.”

She added: “We think we probably have a decade left to turn [climate change] around before we have a planet that’s on the decline, that’s on the way out.

“Disarmament, militarism, infection control, climate change are all inextricably interlinked and we have to be doing something to change the system that supports international corporations and money-making enterprises taking the decisions supposedly on our behalf.

“And I do think from some of the candidates there has been a lack of recognition of the urgency of this issue.”

The hustings began with a question from Liz Findlay, who asked candidates if they support an increase in the number of nuclear warheads in the Clyde by the UK Government and if they believe Scots should be consulted on this.

All candidates agreed that nuclear weapons are ‘bad’ – Ms Grahame described the weapons as an “abomination” and a “poor waste of funds” – however Mrs Haslam said defence is a reserved matter and is handled by the UK Government in Westminster.

Ms Sangster added that the Fabian Society [a socialist think tank which Ms Sangster works for] had conducted a survey of Scots asking where defence powers should lie.

She said: “We [Fabian Society] asked Scottish people in a poll in the summer where they thought defence should sit.

“Twenty-seven per cent said it’s a purely Scottish matter, 30 per cent think it’s a purely UK matter, and the rest are somewhere in-between.”

The second question posed to candidates by Donald McPhillimy asked if they believe in economic growth.

The only candidate to say they did not believe in economic growth was Mr Ashmole.

The Green candidate said: “We’re in the 20 per cent most rich nations of the world, economic growth in other countries is bringing people out of poverty – which I’m actually in favour of – we have no business aiming for growth.”

Due to extra time between segments, those who submitted questions were given the opportunity to respond to candidates’ answers. Many expressed their confusion and disappointment that candidates had not understood their meaning.

This overflowed into the comment section where candidates were probed further. James Clark asked for definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to his earlier question: “Do you support continued exploration for oil and gas reserves?”

As the hustings came to a close and candidates were invited to make closing statements, each asked constituents to read party manifestos, and Mrs Haslam added a request for members of the public to take part in the council’s consultation on cycle lanes.