Paterson resigns from SNP

'News' Exclusive By Colin Purvis

'News' Exclusive By Colin PurvisOUTSPOKEN Hawick councillor Davie Paterson has quit the SNP after a 14 year affiliation with the party.

But he will not stand down from Scottish Borders Council and 0says he will work independently until the next elections.

The 'News' understands that Mr Paterson will call a public meeting of his constituents to inform them of his decision citing 'irrevocable differences' between group leader David Parker and himself as the reason for his departure.

Shortly before going to press on Thursday we received a press release announcing Mr Paterson's resignation from the SNP.

When the 'News' contacted Councillor Paterson, he said: "I am leaving the SNP and will stand for re-election in 2003 as an Independent.I have not been getting support from my party in the last few months and have been threatened with expulsion if I failed to attend meetings.

"As far as I am concerned, the most important people to me are my wife and family and my electorate. I am not prepared to allow Councillor Parker from Galashiels to interfere and stifle me on any issues which affect the health and wellbeing of my constituents.

Mr Paterson alleges that he has been ridiculed and laughed at in public by his group leader and that he is no longer willing to accept the situation.

"During the whole Roy Millan affair, what little amount of support I was given by the SNP was lukewarm and nothing more than a token gesture. I had more than 30 people contact me supporting my stance on bullying issue.

"I was told by David Parker that I was making a fool of myself and was asked to 'be quiet' on several occasions. People did not vote for me to sit on my hands and do nothing. I cannot and will not be subjected to the behaviour which I am being subjected to."

In a letter sent by David Parker to Councillor Paterson two months ago, the SNP group leader said: "I spend a great deal of my time as group leader dealing with and apologising for your conduct in terms of how you carry out your duties."

Mr Parker goes on to say that Councillor Paterson has caused embarassment and undermined both himself and the SNP on countless occasions, and that he continually receives complaints regarding his (Councillor Paterson's) attitude and behaviour towards other councillors and officials. The letter also claims that Mr Paterson has been offered advice in the past for his own interest which he has chosen to ignore, often resulting in him looking foolish and that he has a total lack of political judgement.

Speaking to the 'News' this week David Parker, SNP councillor for Langlee in Galashiels said: "David has never been able to get on with any of our group leaders. We have Standing Orders which David hasn't always stood by and we, as a group, have had to question his behaviour over the last few weeks."

Commenting on the allegation that Mr Paterson was ridiculed, laughed at during council meetings, Mr Parker said: "I have never ridiculed or laughed at David Paterson in public and have defended him in the past."

Mr Parker added: "I have a great deal of respect for David Paterson and will be sad if he leaves the SNP. I wish him well for the future."

However, the letter sent to David Paterson states: "If you wish to leave the SNP group on Scottish Borders Council, then for my part, I will breath a sigh of relief."

Asked to respond to the contents of the letter Mr Parker said: "I am very disappointed that David has divulged the content of this letter to the press. I will not comment on any internal party communication."

Councillor Paterson was first elected to Roxburgh District Council in 1988

and describes himself as 'not the most eloquent speaker in council chambers, but someone who gets his point across and does the best for the people he represents'. He said he would not be holding a by-election and was sure that his constituents would support him at the ballot box at the council elections in 2003.