Three independents to sit with Tories in new administration

A new administration is set to lead Scottish Borders Council forward after a coalition was formed in the wake of last week’s local elections.

By Paul Kelly
Friday, 13th May 2022, 10:02 am
Galashiels and District Councillor Euan Jardine is set to lead the new administration. Photo: Bill McBurnie.
Galashiels and District Councillor Euan Jardine is set to lead the new administration. Photo: Bill McBurnie.

When the votes were counted a week ago today, Friday, May 6, no political party or grouping was handed an overall mandate to take power unopposed in the council chamber.

The Scottish Conservative Unionist Party had the most elected members with 14, followed by the Scottish National Party with nine, independents on seven, the Scottish Liberal Democrats three and the Green Party with one, after returning its first-ever councillor in the region.

Over the following days negotiations were held between the different factions in a bid to find common ground and form a workable alliance.

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Now a deal has been struck with the Conservative group, now being led by Galashiels and District Councillor Euan Jardine, gaining the support of three of the independent councillors – Hawick and Hermitage’s Watson McAteer, Hawick and Denholm’s Stuart Marshall and Selkirkshire elected member Caroline Cochrane.

Councillor Jardine will lead the new administration and Councillor McAteer will serve as the local authority’s new convenor, replacing Councillor David Parker in that role.

Councillor Jardine said: “I am absolutely delighted that we have been able to form an administration with three fantastic independent local councillors.

“People in Hawick and Selkirkshire voted emphatically in favour of prioritising local issues over national politics by electing Councillors McAteer, Marshall and Cochrane to the council.

“Throughout the campaign, my Scottish Conservative colleagues and I were very keen to campaign on similar priorities, underlining the need to focus on our Borders communities and listen to peoples’ concerns. It is on this common ground that our coalition has been formed.

“It will be a real honour to lead Scottish Borders Council. I am under no illusions as to the magnitude of the task in hand, but I am absolutely committed to working as hard as I can for people across the Borders.

“I am very excited to get to work with colleagues, old and new, on making the Borders a better place for us all.”

While the 17 councillors in the new administration does not constitute a majority (being exactly half of the total number of 34 members), any halved vote could be carried as the convenor has a casting vote.

Councillor McAteer said tackling local issues would be the priority for the new administration.

He said: “I am delighted to take the convenor’s role which I hope will be beneficial to both the council and the people I represent.

“We have had very brief discussions at this early stage with our partners and there has been a strong, strong emphasis on re-setting the council agenda to be much more locally-focused and to concentrate on the core services of the council. That’s the language my colleagues Stuart and Caroline wanted to hear.

“We have been campaigning for a long time now to get waste and education and the railway included as key parts of the council’s agenda and we have got that absolute assurance, so that’s really good news. We want to focus in on the things that matter to the people we represent.”

Borders politicians John Lamont MP and Rachael Hamilton MSP have both welcomed news that a new administration has been formed, saying they look forward to working together with its members on key issues in the region.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council on Thursday, May 19, members will be asked to endorse the appointment of both the leader and convenor.