Legal threat over landfill fine claim

Councillor Watson McAteer
Councillor Watson McAteer

The garden waste row took a dramatic new twist this week when one Hawick councillor threatened to sue another for libel.

The move follows an article published on the front page of the Hawick News on August 29 in which Davie Paterson claimed Watson McAteer and Andrew Farquhar were “misleading the public” over the garden waste cuts.

Mr Paterson’s allegation came after Mr McAteer claimed, in an earlier article, that the council “is at risk” of a £900,000 fine for exceeding its landfill allowance.

Mr Paterson, who is the council’s environmental services portfolio holder, took exception to this claiming that the council has it in “writing” that the fines won’t be imposed.

But an email to Councillor McAteer from an official at SBC confirmed that officials had never received written confirmation.

High Street solicitor Bannerman Burke, acting for Mr McAteer, wrote to Councillor Paterson last week calling for him to apologise in three local newspapers.

It states: “Our client has a number of concerns with your conduct but will not proceed with libel action provided you secure the printing of an appropriate apology within the Hawick News, The Southern Reporter and Border Telegraph confirming that you withdraw your allegation that our client has mislead the public, failing which court proceedings will be utilised.”

And the letter also disputes Mr Paterson’s continued claim that he tried to reverse the waste cuts.

“Our client is also concerned at the voracity of some of your comments, for example in a recent Soap Box article you claimed that you had tried to reverse the removal, last year, of the green waste collection, but provided no evidence that you did so.”

Speaking to the Hawick News earlier this week, Councillor Paterson added: “There will be blue snow before McAteer gets an apology. It’s not happening. No chance.”

Councillor McAteer would only add: “This is in the hands of my legal representative.”