Two Hawick councillors given executive roles

Stuart Marshall, left, and Watson McAteer.
Stuart Marshall, left, and Watson McAteer.

The new Conservative-independent ruling administration at Scottish Borders Council has been accused of diminishing democracy by excluding opposition councillors from its executive.

As expected, Mr Turnbull will be executive member for finance and Mr McAteer will become chairman of the authority’s police, fire and safer communities board.

George Turnbull.

George Turnbull.

Also given a post, though not on the executive, is former Hawick provost Stuart Marshall. The independent Hawick and Denholm councillor will chair the new Teviot and Liddesdale locality committee, a replacement for the old area forum with added spending powers.

While those appointments brooked no dissent, the nine-member Scottish National Party opposition group, including new Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage, challenged a motion from Tory group leader Michelle Ballantyne to change the council’s scheme of administration to ensure no opposition councillors can sit on the executive.

That is a departure from the policy of the last SNP-led administration as it made three executive places available to the Conservative opposition.

“The executive committee is where all the action is in terms of policy and decision-making, and for opposition voices to be silenced in this way is galling,” said SNP councillor Heather Anderson, of Tweeddale West.

“It does not augur well for this council that the first key decision it is being asked to make is to effectively diminish democracy.”

But Mrs Ballantyne, shortly to quit the council to become a regional list MSP, defended the change, stating: “For this council to be effective – and reflect all the people who voted for change in the way we do things – there needs to be clarity between the administration and the opposition.”

On a division, the SNP amendment to include opposition members on the executive was defeated by 19 votes to 10.

Earlier on, Shona Haslam, a 42-year- old newcomer to the council in Tweeddale East, was unanimously appointed as its leader, replacing David Parker.

The 43-year-old, an independent councillor for Leaderdale and Melrose, now takes over from Graham Garvie as convener.

Having his first outing as a backbench Tory councillor was Hawick and Denholm’s Neil Richards, a 57-year- old gardener from Cavers.

“The meeting really brought home to me the responsibility, and privilege, of being a councillor,” Mr Richards told the Hawick News afterwards.

“As a father of three children, I want to do all I can to support the council in ensuring the excellence of education provision and doing all we can to encourage new jobs into Hawick.

“The council cannot transform the economic fortunes of this area by itself, but it can do a lot to enable and encourage investment, and that is what I will be fighting for.”