Hawick councillor quits as Borders planning head following standards watchdog probe

Cll.Ron Smith.
Cll.Ron Smith.

A watchdog body has banned the senior planning councillor on Scottish Borders Council from involvement in planning decisions for three months.

And after the decision by the Standards Commission for Scotland was announced, Councillor Ron Smith quit as chairman of the council’s planning and building standards committee.

The Lib Dem councillor for Hawick and Hermitage also resigned as the council’s executive member for planning and the environment.

A commission hearing ruled that he had breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct by failing to declare a non-financial interest in relation to a planning application while chairing a committee meeting.

The hearing chairman commented: “The requirement on councillors to declare interests is intended to produce transparency in regard to interests which might influence, or be thought to influence, their actions as a councillor.

“The failure was a lack of judgement on the part of Councillor Smith whilst performing an important role as chair of a quasi-judicial council committee”

Councillor Smith said he regretted the commission’s decision which he said seemed to have arisen from differing interpretations of the code of practice.

The former assistant headteacher at Hawick High School added: “At all times I have sought to represent the interests of my constituents and of the Borders.”

Councillor leader David Parker has defended his colleague on the council’s rainbow alliance ruling group.

He commented: “Ron Smith is a hard working councillor and works tirelessly for his constituents.

“I accept, but am naturally disappointed with, the standards commission decision. I believe this stemmed from a genuine difference in interpreting the code of conduct.

“I fully respect Ron’s decision and look forward to continuing to work with him on the council and to his playing a significant part in council business in the future.

“I ,and other elected members across the political spectrum, have a very high regard for the work that Ron does.”

Councillor’s Smith’s suspension from planning matters was imposed under the Ethical Standards in Public Life (Scotand) Act 2000.