THE fragility of the Borders economy, threatened further by cuts in the budget of a council which supports many private businesses, was the underpinning narrative of the second half of 2010.
Leader David Parker expressed fears in July that Scottish Borders Council could take a £16million revenue hit in 2011/12. As it transpired, the funding gap turned out to be £13million, with Mr Parker in the vanguard of negotiations between Scottish council leaders and finance minister John Swinney to mitigate the reduction in the annual settlement received from Holyrood.
The Tory/Lib Dem/Independent coalition at Newtown came under early strain, however, when Lib Dem Councillor Catriona Bhatia claimed her Tory colleagues were “out to get me” by forcing her resignation as executive member for education because she spoke out to the TheSouthern of her opposition to nursery education cuts.
July saw 41 Hawick jobs go when Slumberdown entered administration, the anger of workers exacerbated when they learned their managing director had secured a position with a rival company a few days earlier.
A crumb of comfort came the way of Hawick’s Catherine Smith whose soldier son Jason died of heatstroke while serving in Iraq in 2003, the Supreme Court ordering a second inquest into his death.
There was a boost for tourism with the news that the Abbotsford House had secured a £4.85million lottery grant to re-establish the home of Sir Walter Scott into a major visitor attraction.
And an enduring controversy in Lauder over the siting of a new health centre took a new twist when the campaiging Protect our Greenfield Site (POGS) group conducted a survey of townsfolk which showed 88 per cent were against the choice of the public park at Croft Road. The campaign failed when, earlier this month, SBC’s planning committee approved the proposal from NHS Borders.
The same councillors put down a marker against the proliferation of windfarms in August by rejecting a 12-turbine development at Minch Moor between the Tweed and Yarrow valleys.
A tasty political battle was flagged up when former Galloway MP Peter Duncan was selected by the Tories to run for the Scottish Parliament in Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauder, taking on the Lib Dem incumbent Jeremy Purvis and the SNP’s Christine Grahame.
In September, around 50 tradesmen employed by the Scottish Borders Housing Association passed a vote of no confidence following the suspension of two colleagues, one of whom was subsequently sacked before being offered re-instatement on acceptance of a written warning. SBHA also announced it was to close its Deanfield sheltered housing complex in Hawick.
In the same month, shock statistics showed a 475 per cent rise in long-term unemployment in the region over the previous 30 months.
And a report, commissioned by SBC, on sport and leisure provision in the region, sparked campaigns to save swimming pools in Hawick, Jedburgh and Selkirk. Public consultation will end on January 31.
The council approved a six-month lease to a private consortium wishing to transform the St Andrew’s Art Centre in Galashiels into a top-class entertainment venue.
But it was the weather which had the last word with heavy snowfalls marking the end of November, causing school closures and bringing chaos to our roads.
A brief thaw offered some respite but Monday’s snow reminded us we are barely halfway through the winter. Grit, as we reported last week, is being rationed by SBC pending a delivery in the new year.