A NEW council would commit “political hara-kiri” if it ditches its financial support for the Borders common ridings and festivals in the face of new legislation.
That is the view of Selkirk Common Riding Trust clerk Johnnie Thomson, after a crunch meeting on the introduction of temporary traffic regulation orders (TTROs) was held in Galashiels last week.
Around 50 people, including festival organisers, police Chief Inspector Kenny Simpson and Scottish Borders Council (SBC) leader David Parker discussed the new rulings in the Burgh Chambers, with a general feeling of satisfaction ahead of this summer’s ceremonies and celebrations.
SBC has also pledged to pay the cost of advertising, processing and implementing the new rules for all 22 established festivals, at a cost of around £17,000.
And while pleased by the outcome, Mr Thomson warned any decision to withdraw the assistance by a potential new administration following the May 3 council elections would be met with anger across the region.
Mr Thomson said: “It was a very positive meeting and both David Parker and the police did a lot to allay any fears surrounding the need for TTROs.
“I believe they displayed a determination that events should be unfetttered this year.
“The only problem I can see is with the May elections possibly seeing a quite dramatic change to the council.
“But if a new-look council were to adopt a different attitude to this in 2013, they would be committing political hara-kiri.
“I have no fear a new council will adopt such an attitude.
“When you break down £17,000 across all the festivals in the Borders, it is a small amount.
“There is no apprehension in Selkirk for this year’s Common Riding.”
Mr Thomson said there had to be an acceptance that the Borders could no longer avoid TTROs, which are required by law if a public road is closed.
He added: “The Borders remains the last bastion of opposition to this legislation and there was always going to be a time when we had to comply with it.
“The council and police do not make the law, they only enforce it.”
Councillor Parker has previously said he was confident a new council would continue the current arrangement.
He added this week that each festival and common riding was handed a draft TTRO at the meeting, while further talks are planned.
He said: “The good news is that TTROs are now ready to be put in place for all events with only Gala requiring some further work, which will be done this week.
“SBC is paying the cost of the TTROs in full and the common riding and festival committees were extremely happy with the outcome.
“There was a discussion about the ever-increasing burdens that are placed upon them due to legislation.
“We acknowledge their concerns, but made it quite clear that we will continue to be proactive and implement any new procedures with as light a touch as possible, and we will also ensure that SBC and police staff provide them with support.
“All is now set for this year with the TTROs ready to go and everyone seems extremely pleased.”
David Houston of Galashiels’ Braw Lads Gathering added: “There were a lot of issues raised and valid points made.
“We have always had a great relationship with the local police and Scottish Borders Council, being able to pick up the phone and ask a question.
“Everybody is now raring to go for this summer.”
Allan Beveridge of Peebles Beltane Festival told us: “We think the implementation of the TTROs will actually be a help rather than a hindrance to us, as it will show people where to park and what roads are closed.
“We don’t have a problem with it.
“There were concerns regarding the cost, but we will receive financial assistance from the council.”
However, one common riding representative questioned the future of festivals, run by volunteers, in the face of increasing levels of legislation.
“In the short term, SBC have stuck their necks out with this and made it a lot more bearable this year.
“But as for the future, I do not know.”