Andrew Keddie was at the election count at Eildon Mill, Tweedbank, bringing the news to the online audience of TheSouthern. Here is his blow-by-blow account of how the day progressed
Catriona Bhatia says she is delighted to have been the first choice of voters in the ward she has represented since 2007. “A terrific result for my party, but I’m only sad [fellow Lib Dem] Nancy Norman just failed”, she tells us. Willie Archibald acknowledges a “good-hearted” contest and predicts, correctly, that the turnout of 47.34 per cent will be the highest in the election. Nathaniel Buckingham, replacing former depute leader Neil Calvert for the Tories, is not at the count when the result is called, but his party colleague Sandy Scott, contesting Jedburgh and District; hails a “stunning result” given Mr Calvert’s personal popularity in the ward.
Stuart Bell says the election had been about local issues and local democracy. “The faith which so many voters has put in me is humbling and I intend to repay that trust,” he told us. “The SNP wants to create a more democratic system at SBC by empowering all councillors. I have a reputation for causing trouble and I will use that skill of behalf of the people of this ward.”
The first major shock of the election as Kenneth Gunn (SNP) fails to hold his seat, despite the good performances of his party in the Tweeddale wards. Back on the council after a break of five years is independent Gordon Edgar, who is not at the count when the result is given. Michelle Ballantyne appears a popular winner, based on the cheers from Tory activists which greet the announcement. It had been, she says, a fair contest. A shocked Mr Gunn tells us: “It was the second stage of the vote which sealed my fate. At the close of polls last night, it appeared everything was going well. I will still be in there fighting for Selkirk as I have for the last five years.”
Galashiels and District
The SNP bounces back by taking two of the four places in the region’s largest ward. The result is a shocker for the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, with sitting councillor Fiona Lackenby failing to hold on for the former and Rick Kenney unable to emulate outgoing Lib Dem Jim Hume. Bill Herd puts the success of the SNP in the ward down to “sheer hard work”.
Leaderdale and Melrose
The SNP continues on a roll with the election of Jim Torrance, a former chair of Tweedbank Community Council and the apparent backlash against the Tories and Lib Dems is evident with the failure of the former’s erstwhile party chairman in Scotland, Peter Duncan and sitting Lib Dem John Paton-Day, who tells us: “I am very sorry to have lost, but this is not in my view about local politics, rather a message being sent about what is happening at Westminster.” He adds: “Sadly, I fear that the public will pay a high price for this phenomenon.”
A mixed result for the Tories who put up two candidates, with John Greenwell, chairman of the constituency association, succeeding at the expense of sitting councillor and vice-chairman of the planning committee Trevor Jones. The momentum remains with the SNP returning councillors in every seat so far declared apart from Selkirkshire. Donald Moffat says: “Rumours of my demise have obviously been greatly exaggerated and it is a great privilege to again represent the ward in which I was born.”
Another reverse for the Lib Dems with Ken Webb failing to follow in the footsteps of outgoing party incumbent David Raw. Michael Cook says the election and the anonymous and esoteric nature of the voting system has been an “awful experience” for him. Jim Fullarton, too, admits to “some nerves”. The surprise package is, however, Joan Campbell who tells her cheering supporters: “Everyone in the SNP, from First Minister Alex Salmond down to every newly elected councillor, is committed to working and caring for the Scottish people. I will do that in East Berwickshire.”
Kelso and District
A good result for the Conservatives in the first ward that is required to go to stage eight of the STV voting system to elect a councillor. In the event, Simon Mountford keeps the Tory contingent at two following the retiral of SBC convener Alasdair Hutton. Tom Weatherston keeps his place, despite being elected as an independent in 2007 and switching last year. The return of Alec Nicol is an audible relief for the Lib Dems. It is the second ward in which the SNP has drawn a blank. From the stage, the three new councillors all vow to “work together” for Kelso and District.
Jedburgh and District
A major shock which may tip the scales away from the Conservatives in the horse-trading to come. Len Wyse, former provost and executive member for environmental services, fails in his bid for re-election with independent Rory Stewart filling the third place. Mr Wyse tells us: “Yes, I am disappointed as I thought I would do better. The other candidates did well, but folk in Jed don’t like party politics involved in local issues.” With two wards to declare, the Tories and SNP each have eight councillors, the Lib Dems have five, the independents have four and the Borders Party has two. The SNP’s Jim Torrance tells us he will not serve in any coalition between his party and the Tories.
Hawick and Denholm
The misery for the Lib Dems continues as Watson MacAteer, a former divisional police commander, fails to win after the retiral of Jock Houston. Alastair Cranston tells us: “I had genuinely no idea who would win. It was very close. But I was really impressed by all the other candidates who I thought were excellent and what came through was that everyone wanted what was best for Hawick.” Stuart Marshall boosts the independent contingent to six with a landslide win and veteran Zandra Elliot keeps the Tories in the hunt – but who will work with them?
Hawick and Hermitage
The final result is declared after a count run with superb efficiency. David Paterson is a convincing winner and the independents how have seven councillors: a potentially powerful brokering position. The final reckoning is Conservatives 10, SNP 9, Independents 7, Lib Dems 6, Borders Party 2. How will it all pan out if the SNP won’t countenance an alliance with the Tories? The horsetrading starts now.
A predictably inconclusive election result represents a boost for the SNP (nine councillors, up from six) and a brickbat for the Lib Dems (six councillors, down from 10). The Tories remain the single largest party in the council although its representation is cut from 12 to 10. David Parker remains favourite to lead the council, regardless of what alliance ultimately prevails.