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Sketch: Forgotten Tory MSP wants more signs for forgotten town

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Forgotten Tory MSP wants more signs for forgotten town

Oliver Mundell has found his calling – at long last. His one driving mission. The thing he feels he was elected to parliament to do.

And that is to get more road signs for the border town of Langholm.

Others may believe there are many other more pressing political issues, but for this Tory MSP, getting the Muckle Toon onto some signs is vital. And so, he brought forward his members’ debate, ‘Putting Langholm on the Map’.

“A day out of Langholm is a day wasted,” Mundell begins, upset that he’s been dragged to Edinburgh to do his job. The silver lining is he gets to spend his evening talking about this “proud community”.

It would be “easy” to fill his debate time extolling the wonders of the small town, he says, which has been exploring cool things like growing chillis and cannabis.

It sounds like a fun place to be. The Tory MSP hastens to add that the cannabis farm is for medicinal purposes and “entirely legal”.

Cannabis and theft, who knew this Tory MSP had such a dark side

A cheeky Jackson Carlaw intervenes to wonder if Mundell would like to declare a “personal interest”.

The member reveals he was invited to buy shares but declined, “primarily because I felt it would limit me in my ability to lobby the Home Office for a licence”. Indeed, with his dulcet tone and slow way of speaking it is difficult to imagine Mundell would be able to lobby after a toke or two.

Alongside chilli and weed, to pep things up a bit there is also the Common Riding – “truly Langholm’s greatest day”, says Mundell. One of his main achievements, he claims, is to have ridden in the event which is supposed to recreate the reiving of the 13th century.

Cannabis and theft, who knew this Tory MSP had such a dark side. No wonder he no longer speaks for the party on justice or education.

Raiding English farmers is not the only important piece of Langholm history, Mundell continues. It is also the ancestral home of moon-man Neil Armstrong.

US folk, of course, love to talk up their “Scotch” ancestry. Well, it turns out Langholm loves to lay claim to famous Americans. The town even appeared, Mundell reveals, on a map of the UK in a Chicago Tribune article about Armstrong. That map only plotted London and Langholm.

And that brings Mundell to his central point. Langholm “appears to have been forgotten on road signage”, he says, distraught. It’s a “major population centre”, he insists. It may be small by central belt standards, but Langholm matters, he argues.

And it’s rather “insulting” officials don’t believe the Muckle Toon is worthy of signage, when there’s “plenty of room” on them. “It doesn’t seem that big an ask…” Don’t forget about Langholm, he pleads.

Brian Whittle admits he went to Langholm once

You can’t help but feel he isn’t just talking about the forgotten town of Langholm; he’s also talking about the forgotten MSP of Oliver Mundell.

Once so keen on representing his area in the Scottish Parliament that he defied his father’s advice, he quickly realised the job wasn’t all it cracked up to be. He quit the Tory frontbench, and no one has heard much from him since.

Well, that’s all about to change. Because Mundell wants Langholm to be noticed. Good luck trying to get the Dundee mafia at the head of the Scottish Government to pay attention though.

SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor stands to praise the Tory MSP. “I’ve had to learn a wee bit about Langholm today… so well done to you for that,” he says.

If admitting you don’t know much about the place you’re debating is a strange way to start, the mystery is solved when Macgregor admits he’s only here to read out some notes from party colleague Emma Harper, who couldn’t be there. His own constituency is ages away – he doesn’t actually care about Langholm at all. And signage for Coatbridge and Chryston, he says, is “okay”.

Tory MSP Brian Whittle admits he went to Langholm once, as part of a rugby team.

Labour MSP Colin Smyth says while there has been some progress on signage – some will go up in England, apparently – the Scottish Government needs to show more “flexibility and common sense”. Aye, good luck with that.

He simply lists a bunch of things that happen to also appear in Langholm’s Wikipedia

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton praises Mundell for bringing forward a “really great debate”. Is she in the same room?

At least it drew to a close rather quickly as few MSPs care all that much about the town. Even Jim Fairlie, the minister who pulled the short straw to respond, appears uninterested. He simply lists a bunch of things that happen to also appear in Langholm’s Wikipedia entry. Total coincidence, surely.

Getting to the nub of the issue, Fairlie says the “strategic signing arrangements for Langholm are consistent with the national strategy”. Besides, the signs on the M74 are still fairly new, and “large and expensive to replace”.

It doesn’t sound like poor Mundell will get his wish after all.

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