Jim was born in Peebles and raised in Selkirkshire on the family hill farm where from an early age he learnt the farming trade from his grandparents and parents, Jim’s parents were from East Lothian and Dumfriesshire, and he has family across in Ayrshire, so it’s fair to say that he really feels at home in the South of Scotland.
When he was old enough, Jim took over the running of the farm and successfully diversified the business. He’s proud to say that his sons have been running and developing the farm since 2007 with a raft of awards for their Cheviot sheep.
Before Jim was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2007, he represented the community and engaged in public service through his varied work with the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, Scottish Enterprise Borders, Borders Forest Trust and the Borders Forum for Rural Sustainability.
When I was an NFUS Director, I represented roughly 1300 members across Lothian and Borders throughout the foot and mouth crisis in 2001 and I can honestly say this was one of the most challenging times for me, both personally and professionally.
To see the place you love pushed almost to breaking point was a hard reminder of just how much our rural communities are reliant on farming and how fragile the hill farming sector is. It’s been hard, but the region has bounced back and we produce some of the finest ingredients in the world.
People who know me will likely hear me talk about opportunities for the region. Whether it’s for individuals or small family businesses, creating opportunities gives new lifeblood into an area.
During my time with Scottish Enterprise Borders I was involved in a small business scheme for the region in cooperation with Dumfries and Galloway which led to the South of Scotland Loans Scheme. And in 2015 we welcomed the Borders rail link to Tweedbank.
This is a historic move that will create opportunities for old and young alike in the Borders, and make the Borders an attractive place for young families to settle.
Ultimately, I want the line to join up to Carlisle. But it’s not just the Borders, there are socio-economic opportunities right across the region in reinstating rail links and I want to see those explored further, too.”
For me, being an MSP has always been about getting involved in the community issues at grass roots and using gut instinct to fight for what’s right.
It’s about becoming a community champion for your region. So when I was elected in 2007 it wasn’t just a huge privilege, it was a chance to use that public role to fight for the place I love.
Back in 2009 I uncovered plans by the SNP government to sell off the public forestry estate to Rothschild’s banking group.
With the region still so dependent on forestry as one of the key sectors, this would have had a devastating impact on our communities right across the region.
I campaigned hard against the SNP sell off and won that fight.
Right across the region, I’ve fought for college places, community hospitals, local police stations and sheriff courts - and this does not include the thousands of individual casework issues I’ve taken up.
In Holyrood, I’m proud that the Liberal Democrat group has stood up to defend our civil liberties by opposing the SNP’s record on policing and plans for a national ID database.
I’ve always believed that society should protect vulnerable groups. A couple of years ago I began the process of putting together a proposal for new legislation that would stop children being exposed to the harmful effects of second hand smoke in private vehicles. The proposal has now been introduced to the Scottish Parliament in the form of a Member’s Bill.
I’m thrilled that the Parliament’s Health Committee has put its full support behind the Bill, citing it as a necessary legal step in the protection of children from the damages of second hand smoke.
It’s shocking that 60,000 vehicle journeys are made each week in Scotland where children are exposed to second hand smoke in that very enclosed space. And despite what people think, opening a window does not mitigate the harmful effects.
This Bill has always been about protecting children and giving them a healthy start in life, and I'm delighted that it's received such comprehensive support from MSPs, charities and members of the public bringing it one step closer to becoming law in Scotland.
It’s true that the political sands have been shifting, but now more than ever we need a strong liberal voice in Holyrood standing up for the South of Scotland. Come May 2016, I hope my record of action will encourage voters to keep me working for them by putting a cross beside Scottish Liberal Democrats on their party ballot.
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