COUNCILLORS will be asked today to ban all political posters from the region’s 1,200 plus lampposts with immediate effect, writes Andrew Keddie.
The proposal comes from Tory Tom Weatherson (Kelso and District) and is understood to have the backing of the ruling administration at Newtown.
But the timing of his motion – six weeks before the Holyrood elections – has angered Councillor Jim Brown (Jedburgh), a member of the SNP opposition group, who told us this week: “I feel the Conservative group is attempting to alter council policy to help its candidate.”
Mr Brown added: “As the largest grouping on the council with the most easily recognised candidate [John Lamont MSP], it is no wonder the Tories would like to prevent any other candidates from having exposure on the streets.
“They also have most of the major landowners on their side and can have their large banners strategically placed around our towns.”
Councillor Weatherston claimed this was “a ludicrous suggestion”.
“This has nothing to with politics, but everything to do with the look of our towns,” he said.
His motion before today’s full council meeting at Newtown reads: “SBC agrees to prohibit the attachment of posters or other advertising materials to lampposts by political parties or other organisations at times of elections or at any other times. Council agrees that this policy should be implemented with immediate effect.”
Asked what had prompted the move, Mr Weatherston told TheSouthern: “I was approached by several members of the public complaining about a banner, draped across a fence not in council ownership, advertising a commercial event in Kelso.
“When I raised this matter with the organiser, I was given short shrift and told I was being hypocritical because the council allowed its own property – our lampposts – to be used for promotional purposes, particularly at election time.
“I went away and thought about this and came to the conclusion that to avoid being called hypocrites, we should lead by example and ban political posters from our lampposts.
“This was in no way politically motivated because, if councillors support it, the ban will apply to all political parties. It will, also, of course, apply to councillors seeking re-election next year.”
Mr Brown said he had contacted SBC chief executive David Hume, in his role as Returning Officer, to ask if it was legally acceptable to alter council policies after an election had been called and party funds spent.
“I have no problem with this motion being proposed, but not during a live election period when possible advantage could be gained,” added Mr Brown.
Mr Weatherston said he believed there were no legal impediments to the ban, adding that it was Mr Hume who had checked the wording of today’s motion.