LABOUR’S Nick Chisholm says that young people are ‘annoyed’ by talk of Brexit and independence, and want politicians to focus on the environment and public sector spending.

Speaking at the Eskdale Hotel in Langholm, on Friday November 29, Labour’s general election candidate Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale was asked what feedback he was getting from his campaign so far.

Mr Chisholm, who previously worked in marine biology, said: “The main thing people tell me is what an awful time of the year to have an election this is, but I didn’t choose that, I think that was chosen by the Conservative Party.

“It depends where you are really. I was up in Rigside, South Lanarkshire last weekend, and nobody mentioned Brexit, or indyref2, people are mentioning Universal Credit and the way their communities are deeply impoverished.

“They’ve mentioned public transport, and how they can’t get out of the community, they’ve mentioned isolation of impoverished communities.

“Other parts of the community are mentioning Brexit, the independence referendum, and those sort of questions.

“However, the younger people we speak to, are very much tuned in to climate change.

“People under 35 are actually quite annoyed by the constitutional question, they’re annoyed that the election is about Brexit, because they want to talk about climate change, they want to talk about public sector cuts, so it’s an interesting dynamic.

“I genuinely think they’re annoyed at three-and-a-half-years of politicians, from all parties, who haven’t been able to sort this out. So I think there’s an annoyance it wasn’t resolved and at where we are now.”

Mr Chisholm has been a vocal opponent of changes to the UK’s benefits system, and describes Universal Credit as “cruel”.

When asked how he believes the roll out of Universal Credit in his constituency has affected residents, he said: “I’ll tell you a story about two people I met in the northern part of the constituency.

“First of all, in Biggar I met someone who was fairly affluent who said there is no such thing as austerity, and it was not affecting her or anyone else she could see. I found that surprising.

“I then went to Rigside and met someone who had been sanctioned on her benefits because she hadn’t attended a job interview. She hadn’t attended a job interview because she couldn’t get transport to the job interview without using a taxi, which she couldn’t afford, because there was no public transport that would fit in with the timings.

“Universal Credit is a cruel form of delivering benefits to people. The fact that there is a five week delay, for which you then have to borrow money to cover; that in itself is cruel.

“I have never met anyone thus far who is on benefits and wants to be on benefits, and it’s almost like they’re being punished.

“Most people on benefits are in work, they’re on low pay, and the benefits are required to lift them up to a reasonable standard of living, it’s not an affluent standard of living.

“People on benefits have been demonised by large sections of the press as scroungers. Programmes like Benefits Street have perpetuated the myth that everyone on benefits is feckless, and that’s just not true.

“The Universal Credit system, while it had laudable aims, has been delivered in a deliberately cruel way where they are using it as a way of reducing down the cost of people on benefits.”

Mr Chisholm was also asked whether the SNP would have the legitimacy to call a second referendum if it again wins a majority of Scottish seats.

He replied: “I don’t think we can rule that there won’t be another independence referendum in the future, but regardless of the legitimacy or not, quite frankly we have a constitutional crisis on Brexit at the moment, and adding an additional constitutional crisis and trying to mix the two would be insane. It would be insane for the whole of the nation.

“I’m a unionist, but I respect that if Scotland wants to have an independence referendum it should have it. The SNP should also be looking out for the best interests of Scotland, which is to back off for the time being, maybe wait until after the next Scottish elections, and see if there’s still an appetite.

“At the moment, the SNP has weaponised Brexit for its own aims, and I find that really disturbing. At the end of the day, there was a fairly healthy majority to remain in the UK.

“The idea of Nicola Sturgeon, if there is a potential for a Labour government, that she will hold a second independence referendum to the head of a Labour prime minister, well that strikes me as the worst form of blackmail.

“I think she would be refused, and that would mean the SNP would put a Tory government back in, and they’ve done it before. They were called the ‘tartan tories’ in the 1980s. They brought down the Callaghan Government.

“The politicising of Brexit, purely for independence means, I think is really wrong.”

Voters go to the polls on Thursday December 12.