Provost Stuart Marshall sent out a defiant message at last Friday night’s Callants Club dinner, insisting Hawick will survive amid the “very serious challenges” facing the town.
In an emotive address, Mr Marshall also criticised Councillor Davie Paterson over his opposition to the Common Good Fund’s bid to take on ownership of Hornshole, describing his views as “insulting”, while the civic head went on to admit that he felt “hurt” when Hawick was referred to as a “ghost town”.
Replying to the toast of Oor Ain Auld Toon by ex-Acting Father Terry Scott, the provost told diners at the Mansfield Park Clubrooms that “our town is facing some very serious challenges . . . the High Street is suffering badly – shopkeepers and businesses constanty remind me of the pressures they are facing.
“The issues are many – but rates, cleanliness, online shopping, empty shops, a huge on-street parking problem, and, in the eyes of some businesses, the newly-opened Borders Railway – are all contributing significantly to the decline in our High Street at the moment.”
Mr Marshall also lamented the closure of Hawick Knitwear in January which “shook the town to its core”, but welcomed the news that a newly-formed company was to re-employ up to 40 of the 180 redundant workers.
Turning his focus on the Boundary Commission for Scotland’s “ill thought out proposals” to reduce the number of councillors in Hawick from six to four, the provost said the Edinburgh-based quango hadn’t a clue about what boundaries meant to townsfolk, and knew nothing about Hawick’s customs and traditions.
There was “one good thing” to come from the commission’s proposals, though, said Mr Marshall, with the alert sounded that Hornshole was, in fact, in “no man’s land”.
He added: “It was unbelievable that such an integral part of our town’s history was actually owned by no one.
“And just to add insult to injury, how insulting it was to hear one of our very own town councillors [Davie Paterson] place on public record that he felt the fight to secure ownership of Hornshole was ‘a load of twaddle’.
“How insulting, indeed, gentlemen.”
Returning to the town’s economic problems, Mr Marshall said he would do all he could to address the challenges Hawick faced, and concluded: “It hurts me and it hurts me hard when I hear folk say that our town is dying on its feet. It hurts me hard when folk say that we’ll soon be a ghost town.
“But gentlemen, our town is not a ghost town, nor is it going to die. Because as long as we have such great folk living in it, who care deeply about it, I am utterly convinced its survival is well and truly assured.”
Responding to the provost’s comments at the dinner, Councillor Paterson told us this week: “This is just our honorary provost trying to play silly politics and, in my opinion, trying to use the Common-Riding as a political football.
“Hornshole has served Hawick well for hundreds of years, why change it now? There was no problem with the Common-Ridings when Hornshole was in the Denholm and Ancrum ward in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Surely the provost should have been shouting for jobs or other more important things for the people of Hawick?”
Callants Club dinner: page 9