Scotland politics

The general election could get tasty in the home of Cullen Skink


Cullen Bay Hotel overlooks the Moray Firth. It's a beautiful view from the dining room, where you can regularly see dolphins making their way up the coast.

But today we're spending time in the kitchen, learning how to make the iconic local dish Cullen Skink. The hotel's owner Ian Watson has won awards for his recipe and he's showing us a few tricks.

More on that in a minute - because he also has views on the political landscape here.

Ian voted Remain. He was in the majority in this area, but only just. While every counting area in Scotland returned a Remain result, Moray was extraordinarily close. It's thought fishing and agricultural communities played a part in making the vote so tight. There were just 122 votes in it.

Image caption Nick tries his hand at making Cullen Skink

"We've just got to make sure it's the best it can be," says Ian of what happens now. He's confident Scotland would flourish as an independent country. But he's thinking of changing his vote from the SNP to the Conservatives; largely because he's not happy with the business rate changes introduced by the SNP Scottish government in Edinburgh (although that's a devolved issue, so not decided by MPs).

The SNP have held this seat since 1987. Since 2001, the local MP has been Angus Robertson, the party's deputy leader and one of the EU's most vocal supporters in the House of Commons as SNP group leader.

I asked him how the Brexit vote could impact the election campaign here. His pitch?

"It's either going to be me as MP for Moray, or it's going to be a Tory who's going to give a blank cheque to Theresa May," he says. "I don't think that's a good idea given how important the European Single Market is for the economy of Moray."

Image caption Angus Robertson has a 9,000 majority in the seat

The Conservatives haven't held this seat for 30 years, but they are in buoyant mood here. Moray is a seat talked about by many top Tories as a key target seat, despite a 9,000 majority for Mr Robertson in 2015.

Their candidate is Douglas Ross, who's already a list MSP in the Highlands. He plans to quit Holyrood if he wins this seat, but will keep acting as an official in top-flight football.

I spoke to him in Forres, where he was out leafleting with local activists and his gorgeous Dalmatian Murphy. He thinks his message is getting through to pro-Brexit voters.

"They are concerned that the SNP will take us out of Westminster, and in an independent Scotland would go straight back into Europe," he says. "And the majority who voted Remain are also concerned that their vote is taken as a proxy to call for a second, divisive independence referendum."

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Media captionVoters on the Keith to Dufftown heritage railway explain how Brexit might influence them

Along the road in Garmouth, Labour are out on the streets too. Candidate Jo Kirby is a local modern studies teacher.

"We are going to fight the Tory hard Brexit," she says. "We believe it will be very damaging to the economy, especially as Moray relies a great deal on exports in its food and drink industry.

The Lib Dems' convenor in Scotland, Sheila Thomson, works in Elgin. Her pitch to voters?

"We are the only party here that can offer them that other opportunity - an opportunity to look at how we best fit in Europe long-term and how we can keep Scotland in the UK."

Image caption Douglas Ross is looking to oust Mr Robertson

Back in Cullen, our soup is ready.

"It's not bad" says Ellis Macaulay. She works in the hotel and has lived locally her whole life.

And on the impact of Brexit in the election campaign? "It's a bit of a mix up here. I've heard a lot of positive things and a lot of negative's definitely an age thing," with young voters being more sceptical.

And the verdict of Ian on our dish? "A solid eight out of 10."

Full list of candidates: Anne Glen (Ind), Jo Kirby (Lab), Alex Linklater (LD), Angus Robertson (SNP), Douglas Ross (Conservative)

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