Councillors meet minister over Hawick boundary change plans

Councillors Alastair Cranston and Stuart Marshall, Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi, MSP Paul Wheelhouse and Councillor Watson McAteer.
Councillors Alastair Cranston and Stuart Marshall, Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi, MSP Paul Wheelhouse and Councillor Watson McAteer.

The town’s Hawick and Denholm councillors travelled to Edinburgh this week to meet with the man who will sign off any changes to local electoral boundaries in 2017.

The trio joined Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi for a 45-minute meeting hosted by local list MSP Paul Wheelhouse.

And Mr Wheelhouse is set to ask Scottish Borders Council to amend its request to the boundary commission.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “Marco Biagi MSP was clearly well informed and demonstrated great interest in our submissions to the review and what we had to say on the issue of historical and cultural importance of Hawick’s boundaries, the impact on councillors’ ability to serve their constituents in the proposed new wards, and the impact on local governance arrangements in the Teviotdale and Liddesdale area.

“We made the case that Hawick has established a strong foundation for community resilience, and that the six councillors play an important role in supporting this. and in determining and securing investment for the town to tackle economic challenges.

Mr Wheelhouse added: “I’ll be working with Hawick’s councillors to further strengthen our case for Hawick to, ideally, retain its current boundaries, and to fulfil the desire of local communities, including Denholm, Newcastleton and Bonchester, to maintain their electoral links with the town. We intend to ask Scottish Borders Council to consider making an amendment to their earlier submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission, to request that the number of councillors in Borders remain at 34 – a point I have made to the commission in my own submission.”

Councillor Watson McAteer said: “It was good to meet Marco Biagi and have the chance to present a strong case for the status quo and I believe Mr Biagi was genuine in his support and advice. As the Scottish Government Minister who will ultimately sign off any boundary changes it was important to meet him face to face and fight for all of the Hawick communities.”

Councillor Stuart Marshall added: “Marco Biagi has the power and authority to influence the outcome of proposed boundary changes and we felt it important to make the Hawick case.

“He understood the uniqueness of our community acknowledging that we marked our boundaries annually making this whole proposition much more than a paper exercise for Hawick folk. He was also aware of the recent flooding and its effects on our town and listened to our plea to retain appropriate representation in the area’.

Councillor Alistair Cranston said: “It was clear that the Minister, Mr Biagi, understood where we were coming from in terms of being a distinct rural community and, while I appreciate he cannot make any commitments or guarantees at this stage, I am pleased we had such a positive meeting with him.”

The story first hit the headlines in June this year and a petition, gathering hundreds of signatures, to ensure that Hornshole ramains part of Hawick was launched.