Criticism of Smith has got ‘personal’

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I CANNOT allow Jamie Batten’s most recent letter criticising Councillor Ron Smith to pass without comment.

When I, as minister of Teviot & Roberton Church, received a “neighbourhood notification” concerning the proposed sandwich bar near to the church building in St George’s Lane I made an immediate response through the Scottish Borders Council website. This was a response which I felt was necessary since the closing date fell before the next scheduled Kirk Session meeting. Subsequently, the Kirk Session met and discussed (amongst other things) the planning application. On its own behalf, the Kirk Session also made a late response.

When we took up the business, Councillor Smith made it clear that he could not involve himself with the session’s discussion because of his council role. Session respected his position and apart from one technical piece of advice, Mr Smith took no part in the business, made no comment on either my response or that of the Kirk Session, and continued to maintain total impartiality.

Furthermore, from reports in the Hawick News, it seems that his reason for deciding as he did was different from the main concerns expressed by me as an individual and by the Kirk Session as a body.

Given the scale of opposition from local parties and others further afield, I feel that the issue is not whether a committee of SBC should accept without demur the opinion of paid officials, but whether the democratic concerns of local parties should have any weight with elected members.

This was clearly a difficult decision to make, and I am saddened that, rather than recognising this, Mr Batten has persisted in what is beginning to look like a personal issue and not a matter of local democracy.

NEIL R. COMBE