“I promised to represent the people of Hawick and Denholm as an independent councillor free from political shackles and bias. Membership of the independent group and the council’s administration restricts me from properly exercising my role.”
This was the no-holds-barred view Councillor Watson McAteer as he quit the council’s ruling administration at St Boswells this week.
He was joined by fellow Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall, who added: “To stay as a member of the Independent group and be expected to toe a party line would seriously restrict me in the way I am able to represent the people who elected me.”
The resignations come in the wake of the tapestry for Tweedbank vote and will have sent shockwaves through SBC’s ten-strong ruling coalition.
Both broke rank at the end of December and voted against spending £6.3million over 30 years to fund a new home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre at Tweedbank.
Council leader David Parker told the Hawick News that councillors had a free vote, but resignation letters sent by both McAteer and Marshall to group leader Sandy Aitchison, make it clear that both felt real pressure to toe the Independent party line.
McAteer wrote: “. . . first and most importantly is the growing concern I have in my ability to execute my role as an independent councillor where any lack of alignment is met with shouts of ‘dissent’ from within the group and by others within the council’s administration. I consider this to be unhealthy. I will not be restricted from representing those who elected me or expressing my views and beliefs.
“In addition I find myself working alongside some in the group that I do not trust or respect. I have witnessed behaviour, excused as ‘politics’ that I will not be associated with.”
In his letter, Mr Marshall said: “I find it very difficult as an independentcouncillor to constantly hear of members of this administration, some of whom are portfolio holders, repeatedly calling for me to be brought in to line.
“The recent issue surrounding my views on the proposed tapestry for Tweedbank has without doubt been a major factor in my decision.
“I was appalled to read on the front page of last week’s Hawick News a comment made by a portfolio holder that I “have done the town no favours and that I may have jeopardised future council funding” reaffirms the decision which I have reached.”
Councillor Sandy Aitchison, leader of the independent group at SBC, said: “I am disappointed councillors McAteer and Marshall have decided to leave our group.
“Both are dedicated councillors who I believe would achieve more if they were within the administration. It [the tapestry] was a free vote and there was no retribution for the way a councillor voted.”