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Borders by-election: the challengers

Four candidates currently selected to replace John Lamont at Holyrood

A well-known local politician in her own right - and daughter of Lord David Steel - Catriona Bhatia was elected to Scottish Borders Council in 2003 and served as Education Convener from 2007-2010. She spoke out against a decision to scrap plans to extend nursery hours due to anticipated funding shortfalls, leading to her being voted out of her promoted role. Re-elected in 2012, she was nominated as the Council’s representative on the board of NHS Borders and chaired the Shadow Integration Board which brought together health and social care services. She was a member of the Commission on Local Tax Reform (2015) and served as Deputy Leader of the Council. She decided not to seek re-election to the Council in 2017.

Catriona Bhatia studied hotel management at Westminster College. Her husband works in the whisky industry and they have three daughters, the eldest of whom, Caledonia (18) was a candidate in the recent council elections. Ahead of the council elections, in which she decided not to seek re-election, Catriona Bhatia commented on the "disappointing" number of female candidates. She has also spoken out on religious observance, specifically the need to ensure school chaplains have an inclusive approach on equalities issues such as same-sex marriage. Other issues she has supported include the NSPCC's 2010 'I stand for children' campaign (to prioritise measures on child protection).

A local campaigner and agent for the Scottish Conservatives from 2002 onwards, Rachael Hamilton was one of several new Conservative MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016. Representing the South of Scotland region, she was the party spokesperson for tourism and small business, until resigning to fight the by-election seat. In this role she has focused particularly on need to encourage recruitment, training and leadership in the tourism and hospitality sector.

Rachael Hamilton grew up on the family farm in rural Hertfordshire, before studying agriculture and joining Schering Agriculture as an agronomist. Moving to Scotland, she subsequently worked for Scotbeef Ltd based in Bridge of Allan working for the Galloway family in livestock quality assurance.

In 2008, Rachael and her husband Billy purchased The Buccleuch Arms in St Boswells. They have three children.

Based in Hawick, Gail Hendry has been a significant behind-the-scenes organiser for the SNP in the Borders, acting as election agent for numerous council and parliamentary campaigns, including Calum Kerr's successful bid for the Westminster seat in 2015. She was also election agent for Paul Wheelhouse's unsuccessful challenge on the Holyrood seat in 2016, giving her an unrivalled insight into the campaign mechanics that will be required to overcome the Conservative campaign in this seat. Having opted not to be the 'face' of any prior electoral bid, it will be interesting to see if she can make the move in this short and intensive campaign where every potential vote will have to be mobilised.

She is the sister of former SNP leader and First Minister, Alex Salmond, chair of Hawick & District SNP and convenor of the SNP's Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire constituency association. Numerous politicians and activists refer to her as one of SNP's "hardest-working" campaigners.

A suggestion that electing Jeremy Corbyn as PM would help deliver a second independence referendum has overshadowed Sally Prentice's by-election campaign so far. By suggesting that SNP voters in the seat should “hold your nose and vote Labour” on June 8, her quote has been siezed on by Conservative campaigners. In a short campaign, given that Labour have little or no traction* in this part of the Borders, it's unlikely that she can emerge as a serious contender for the seat. There are no Labour councillors on Scottish Borders Council and just two MSPs for the South of Scotland regional list.

Sally Prentice was a Labour candidate for the Kelso ward in last week's council elections, but eliminated after Stage 5 of the vote redistribution. She is 27 and has two children.

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