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Michelle Ballantyne (standing) at a recent hustings

Election 2015: Michelle Ballantyne

In February 1974 during the general election I stood as a candidate in the mock elections in my primary school. I led the PLP (Prevent Litter Party) and I am delighted to report that we won the majority vote and the honour of implementing our promises for one year in the village. It was my first and last involvement with politics until I joined the Conservative Party in 2009 and was elected as a councillor in 2012, but I learnt a valuable lesson. Making promises was easy; delivering results was the real challenge and after a year of picking up litter and trying to convince people not to drop it in the first place I understood that you can only get results if your promises are realistic, everyone works together and we share responsibility for our world.

John Lynch an American politician once said:

“We will not agree on every issue. But let us respect those differences and respect one another. Let us recognise that we do not serve an ideology or a political party; we serve the people”.

To me that is the backbone of what politics is about – everyone wants the best for our country and our communities what makes us different is how we believe we can achieve the best outcome for the people we serve.

I have spent 34 years working in the NHS and the voluntary sector supporting and helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society. My husband and I set up a manufacturing company 25 years ago and we have experienced the real challenge of creating the wealth that drives our economy because the truth is that private enterprise is the backbone of any promise that a government makes.

We have to have a strong economy and that means getting rid of the deficit and clearing the debt that we are currently shackled with. If we don’t do this the interest payments on the debt will rise steadily and that is money that should be used to deliver services. I am proud of the fact that over the last five years the coalition has in the face of a global recession formed a plan and stuck to it ensuring that Britain is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This is no small feat and no one should underestimate how important it is.

The only money government has to spend is the taxes it collects from both individuals and businesses. Individuals earn their money from business and public sector earnings are paid from the money government collects from the private sector and therefore it is clear that the only money government has comes from the wealth generated within the private sector. This is why it is so important to back and support businesses because without them we would not be able to have the universal education, health care, defence, security and welfare that we all value. Without income from the private sector government would have no resources to help and all promises would be rendered false. Entrepreneurs and private industry are essential to our well-being and aspirations for the future.

So if you vote for me I will work hard to ensure that a Conservative Government delivers the right tax and regulatory environment to help businesses in Midlothian flourish.

No one wants to be the one to have to make cuts in public spending after all it doesn’t necessarily help your popularity, but it does take courage and a clear head to make difficult decisions and see them through. That is why I joined the Conservative Party and I am proud to be running as a candidate in Midlothian. To improve life chances for everyone we have to have a strong economy and to do that businesses must be confident to invest in their future and provide employment and opportunity. Governments role is to provide constitutional stability and the infrastructure and environment that allows business to flourish. Conservative led governments do this. Over the last five years

  • Employment is up in Scotland by 174,000
  • Three private sector jobs have been created for every lost public sector job
  • Unemployment in Scotland is down by 56,000
  • The number of children living in workless homes has dropped by over 39000 and is now at its lowest level since records began in 1996

Scotland voted to stay as part of the United Kingdom and that now needs to be respected to provide constitutional stability. As a unionist I want to see Scotland with a strong voice in Westminster and Midlothian with a strong voice in Scotland, devolution should not stop at Holyrood.

Making ends meet is for many families the biggest worry that they face and without hope that things are going to improve life can be very hard. As a Conservative I have always been committed to low taxes it is only right that you should keep the majority of the money that you earn. Raising the amount you can earn before you have to pay tax is a simple and effective way to deliver this. The next Conservative Government will go even further in putting your money back in your pocket by raising the point at which you pay tax to £12,500. For those who immediately think that being conservative is all about helping the rich let’s look at the facts – the richest 20% of households will contribute more to reducing the deficit then the remaining 80% put together. The top 1% of earners contributes 25% of the tax and this is forecast to rise to 27%, higher than at any time under the labour government. The Independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed that ‘the very rich have lost the most under this government’. Taxation is about raising money to provide government with resources to provide services – it is not a punishment system for doing well and it is most effective in its aim when it encourages aspiration and operates at a level that people are happy to pay.

For those large corporations who have no allegiance to our country and wish to evade our tax system I will support further statutory measures to close the loopholes that allow tax dodging. We have done more on this than any other government before us to prevent tax evaders and this has already raised £85 billion.

The Conservative Party are and always have been committed to a health care service that is free at the point of use based on need and mot on the ability to pay. My views and understanding of what is happening in the NHS are not based on political rhetoric and scaremongering they are based on thirty years of experience first as a Nurse and subsequently in operational and strategic management. The NHS has had year on year increases in funding and the Barnet consequential means that Scotland has received our share of those increases however that money has not been passed on to our health boards and the rhetoric on privatisation is designed to create fear in the hope of winning votes – it is a shameful way to mislead people and use a service which is the difference between life and death for many people. There are many changes that could and should be made to the NHS to secure its future and provide the best outcomes for patients but using it as a political football is not one of them. I will work with our nurses, doctors and allied health professionals to ensure that we make the right decisions to provide an NHS that works for the people it cares for, an NHS that is about health outcomes not about targets and bureaucracy.

In many ways you could sum up the role of government in one sentence ‘it must provide hope and aspiration for the future’. That is why I am Conservative. I believe that it is government’s role to facilitate you to be able to realise your dreams –

  • The right to a good education where the quality of what you learn and achieve is more important than just teacher numbers.
  • Opportunities to learn, not just in university, but vocationally with access to colleges and work opportunities.
  • A job for everyone who wants one, and the help to get back to work for those who feel isolated from the opportunity.
  • The chance to own your home – Help to buy has been a huge success and has helped many people in Midlothian to get on the housing ladder. We will continue to support and develop programmes that help people to have a home of their own.
  • A police force that works with our communities, not a one size fits all approach.
  • Protection for our environment recognising that that is also about keeping our scenery beautiful and encouraging the land management that we have benefitted from for hundreds of years.
  • A strong voice in the world, getting a good deal in Europe and providing appropriate support and aid in areas of conflict and crisis.

I hear a lot of politicians using expressions like Fairness and Justice – these are words that are used like weapons now to sell an ideology and detract from the facts. Scottish Government statistics show that inequality has fallen under the Conservatives. The income received by the lowest income groups has increased and for the highest income groups it has fallen. Wages are now rising faster than inflation and more jobs have been created in the UK than in the whole of Europe put together.

I haven’t enough space here to lay out every element of what I believe and know to be true so I will leave you with this. I care deeply about people, I have spent my life working to ensure that individuals had the opportunity to make good choices that provided them with a secure, happy life. I have literally put my money where my mouth is, selling my home to ensure that I didn’t have to short time our employees or make anyone redundant. I make decisions based on sound judgement and analysis of risk.

All my voting life I have looked at the candidates on the ballot sheet and made my decision who to vote for based on the likely success of the policies their party was putting forward but also on the person themselves and what I thought they had to bring to the job. Whilst politics is not a meritocracy I believe that the success or failure of government is based on the quality of the people we elect to do the job and their understanding of the effect of the decisions they make on all sectors of society.

When you come to vote don’t just listen to the political rhetoric look at the facts because as Winston Churchill said

“The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end , there it is”