Apathy wins the day as voters shun by-election hustings

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Three members of the public attended the by-election hustings event in Burnfoot Community School on Wednesday night.

And the other meetings in Denholm and Bonchester fared little better with poor turnouts being recorded at both.

Discounting family members, agents, pressmen and sitting councillors, less than 30 locals have turned up in total for the three events.

And organiser Andrew Farquhar has been left stunned at the apathy shown by the electorate.

Speaking to the Hawick News yesterday (Thursday), the former councillor said: “The intention was to try to tackle apathy and complacency in local government but people have just opted not to be bothered. If people are not interested in who they elect, they get who they deserve.”

The combined turnout from the three meetings equates to just short of 0.5 per cent of the population in the Hawick and Denholm ward and this, according to Mr Farquhar, is an opportunity wasted: “People need to take the time to examine and judge the candidates they are being asked to elect.” And he added: “This is a great chance to see these potential councillors compete against each other and for voters to question them on issues that matter. I genuinely feel that people are not taking an interest because they feel elected members are not interested in them. And that is a really worrying situation.”

But he says he’s still hopeful of a decent turnout at the final hustings in the town hall on Monday night.

“I really do hope folk turn out for the final night. I am optimistic that we’ll see a good crowd and hear a lively debate.”

And speaking to the Hawick News this week, one member of the public who attended both the Denholm and Bonchester events, said: “I actually feel sorry for the candidates. They have made the effort to come along but have been ignored the public. Perhaps it’s some sort of protest but it’s not healthy and it’s certainly worrying.

“I suppose it’s a chicken and egg situation. What came first, apathy towards local government or apathy towards voters? Either way, we have a real problem.”

The issue of wind farms dominated both the Denholm and Bonchester meetings with most candidates calling for Scottish Borders council to veto new applications. Green waste, budget cuts, the regeneration of the High Street and future spending plans have also featured.

Monday night’s meeting takes place in the town hall at 7pm.