Paterson accused of ‘political mischief’

Independent candidate for Hawick and Hermitage, David Paterson.
Independent candidate for Hawick and Hermitage, David Paterson.

A bid by a Hawick councillor to have Scottish Borders Council write to the UK Government expressing concerns over cuts in funding was narrowly beaten today in a full council meeting at Newtown.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor David Paterson (Ind) said he was acting after receipt of a letter from Holyrood transport minister Humza Yousaf, who had said any funding shortfall from the UK Government “may impact on plans for the rising demand for Scotland’s railways and could adversely impact any proposals for extending beyond Tweedbank”.

Mr Paterson’s motion asked that SBC leader Shona Haslam write to the UK Government “expressing the council’s concerns” over reports that changes being introduced by the UK Government in 2019 will see a £600million cut in funding to the Scottish Government, which, he said, “could almost certainly be the death knell for any future extensions to the Borders Railway.”

An amendment to the motion was proposed by Councillor Helen Laing, which added that “It could also threaten plans to re-open Reston Station.” Mr Paterson was happy with the ammendment.

However, Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley (Con) submitted a counter proposal, that the leader instead writes to Mr Yousaf, “requesting confirmation of his recent ‘unwavering’ commitment” to building a station at Reston, and reaffirming that the council has the “strongest possible commitment to ensuring the economic and social benefits of the Borders Railway are extended through to Hawick, Newcastleton and on to Carlisle, so that the leader will ask the minister to make clear that current East Coast main line projects and budgets have no connection to future proposals for extension of the Borders Railway.”

Mr Rowley accused Mr Paterson of “political mischief”, adding: “Reston is absolutely vital, and we should not be playing politics with it.”

And Mr Paterson’s fellow Hawick coumcillor Watson McAteer said Mr Paterson’s motion was “misconceived” and said he was concerned that the motion “has the serious potential to impede any plan to extend the Borders Railway through Hawick and Newcastleton and on to Carlisle”.

But councillor Heather Anderson insisted: “All we are asking you to do is to write to your colleagues in the UK Government to get that money back.”

Kelso and district councillor Euan Robson (Lib Dem) supported Mr Paterson’s motion, but said it was important to talk to both governments as it was a cross-border project.

He added: “It is important to talk to the UK government about the opportunities that rail development in the Borders will bring.”

When it went to vote, Councillor Rowley’s counter proposal won over Mr Paterson’s motion by 17 votes to 12.

After the meeting, Mr Paterson said: “I’m extremely disappointed.

“I felt [the cuts] were going to have a detrimental effect to future projects that are not already financially committed.

“And I don’t think the Borders Railway project is financially committed yet.

“I felt there were real problems there.

“I thought I would get 100% backing from the other councillors and unfortunately I didn’t.

“They tried to twist it and said I was being political, but I wasn’t ... I was looking after the people I represent.”