As a result of this month’s local government elections, we again find ourselves with an administration that has been cobbled together through compromise and horse trading in an attempt to serve the Borders for the next five years.
This time, however, the party that had most members returned has been excluded from this administration, thus putting the democratic process into question.
The electoral system we now have was the price exacted by the Liberal Democrats for continuing the coalition arrangements with Labour 10 years ago which resulted in the introduction of the convoluted proportional Single Transferable Vote system for local elections, with multi-member wards of either three or four members.
We now have an electoral system that many voters simply do not understand. The ward changes effectively diluted the ability of the electorate to hold specific elected members to account and made local government even less local.
Just how farcical things have become was well illustrated in a TheSouthern article last week which accurately predicted even before the administration was formed that David Parker would lead the new council.
The reason for this – because “the thought of David Parker and Michael Cook in opposition is enough to put the wind up any administration” – is indeed accurate. That same statement was made exactly five years ago by a senior Tory when they took over leading the administration.
Surely this is a case of political cowardice.
Does it not speak volumes about the people we have elected to represent our interests at Newtown St Boswells?
How many voters ever thought that their political groups would admit that they have no potential leaders to put forward and that their members do not have the skills and ability to robustly and passionately debate any cause on behalf of their constituents, or effectively answer any challenge David Parker could possibly present if he happened to be a member of the opposition?
For five years the SNP performance while in opposition has been mediocre to say the least and now with all 10 Tories taking their place, it will be a golden opportunity for them to shine if they have the ability. It will be interesting to see how they perform.
Nevertheless, the sooner party politics gets out of local government the better. There has been far too much tinkering with the electoral system and boundaries for short-term political gain to the detriment of good governance, much of which has subsequently backfired on the parties involved.
Andrew I. Farquhar
We would like to express our profound gratitude to all those who supported the Borders Party by voting for us at the local election, and also to those who helped with the campaign.
As a result the Borders Party vote doubled across the region to about 10 per cent on average. In some areas it was as high as 25 per cent or even more.
This was a very encouraging election. Voters responded well to our message of an independent local party focused on local issues, excellent schools, and taking more care to maintain and enhance our landscape and way of life. We’ll do even better next time.
The vagaries of the voting system meant that we won no more council seats, despite some near misses and retaining our existing councillors with an increased vote.
Our congratulations go to those of our opponents who won and commiserations to those who didn’t.
Across the Borders three more independents won seats, and the national parties’ share of the vote fell substantially. Independent local politics is on the way back in the Borders, which is healthy for local democracy.
The Borders Party will play a full role contributing ideas and expertise to make the council work better over the next five years.
Nicholas Watson (re-elected), Sandy Aitchison (re-elected), David Pye, Frances Pringle, Diana Miers, Trevor Jackson, Leven Brown, Mary Douglas, Frank Little, Tom Miers and Cat Macdonald-Home
(Borders Party candidates)
The Scottish Borders Council announcement regarding the new administration said: “Nicholas Watson and Sandy Aitchison (the two Borders Party councillors) have agreed to become Independents.”
Is it not somewhat strange that, seven days after being elected as Borders Party councillors, Messrs Watson and Aitchison should abandon their party in order to become part of the administration? What is the motivation behind their betrayal of those who voted for them? Was the prospect of power, perhaps accompanied by enhanced salaries, irresistible?
Furthermore, they are supporting an administration which, being SNP led, will do everything it can to promote the SNP’s whole raison d’etre – the break-up of the United Kingdom.
I doubt if many of those who voted for the Borders Party expected this outcome. It is a tawdry affair which is unbecoming of elected members.
David S. W. Williamson