Councillor insists his parliamentary election no-show was “honest mistake”

A Liberal Democrat councillor from the Borders has denied dissatisfaction with the party was the reason for his failure to get his Scottish Parliament constituency papers in on time.

John Paton-Day admits he has “concerns” over the UK coalition government, but says his no-show as Scottish Lib Dem candidate for Clydesdale was due to an “honest mistake”.

The blunder has left the South Lanarkshire area as the only seat in Scotland out of 73 not to be represented by Tavish Scott’s party.

And Labour hopeful Karen Gillon claims it has resulted in two leading Lib Dem supporters switching allegiance for the May 5 elections.

The Leaderdale and Melrose councillor was due to lodge his nomination papers for Clydesdale – which represents communities such as Biggar and Carluke – and the South of Scotland regional list before last Tuesday’s deadline.

He told TheSouthern: “I was given the regional list form, but not the constituency form. I thought both were on the same form and filled it out.

“It was the next day when I was told that I was not on the constituency candidate list and I could not understand it. By then it was too late.

“I am disappointed – it was an honest mistake.”

It is believed Mr Paton-Day’s absence from the Clydesdale campaign will be the first time since 1999 that the Lib Dems have not had a constituency candidate competing for every seat in the Holyrood elections.

But he refuted, as suggested by a national newspaper, that the error was in fact a protest at the running of the party.

Mr Paton-Day told us: “It is a non-story – it was not because I was dissatisfied with the party.

“Yes, I have concerns and I would be lying if I said I agree with everything that the UK party is doing.

“But we are the Scottish Liberal Democrats and, as Tavish Scott has said, we have a different approach to dealing with problems.

“I think it is quite acceptable for the Scottish Liberal Democrats to fight in a different way. I do not think it (his absence in Clydesdale) will make much difference.”

However, Mrs Gillon, who hails from Jedburgh, has said her campaign against rivals Aileen Campbell (SNP) and Colin McGavigan (Conservatives) has been boosted by the oversight.

She said: “I have spoken to a couple of leading Lib Dem activists in the constituency who are going to be voting for me now because of my record and because there is no Lib Dem candidate.

“Obviously it is disappointing not to have all four of the major parties represented in the constituency, especially for people wishing to express their views of the coalition government.

“I come from the Borders and have heard the views of people who have voted for the Lib Dems in the past and did not expect the party to go into a coalition with the Conservatives.

“I am hoping a substantial number of people who voted Lib Dem will now switch to the Labour Party. Speaking to my constituents, a substantial number of them identify themselves with Labour.”

Mr Paton-Day, who will now canvass support for Jeremy Purvis’ bid to take the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale seat, admitted: “I would be a damn fool if I said the coalition won’t affect our Scottish Parliament vote.

“Obviously people see us as the same and I don’t blame them.

“But I would hope people would also see the Scottish Liberal Democrats think differently.

“We have a smaller population and this means differing issues.

“I will do everything I can for Jeremy. He is an excellent MSP and is very, very good at his job.”

Mr Paton-Day will remain on the Lib Dem’s South of Scotland regional list, where he is ranked seventh behind fellow Borders councillors Jim Hume and Catriona Bhatia.

More election coverage – pages 2 and 3