A question of local accountability

The Borders Party plan for Hawick has received encouraging levels of feedback, mostly positive, from both residents and businesses.

The plan is there in full on our website and I would urge people to judge its merits for themselves. Inevitably, our political opponents will rubbish our ideas, as they have done in these pages. Fair enough, but two points in particular need to be answered.

It is quite wrong to suggest that we need legislation for Scottish Borders Council to give more power to local groups.

While the statutory duty to look after Hawick’s Common Good ultimately rests with Scottish Borders Council, there is no reason why an advisory body made up of respected local people should not provide management guidance and financial oversight. Similarly, the community council could propose and prioritise cleaning, repairs and other projects carried out by SBC staff.

This occasionally happens already, but proper arrangements would reinvigorate the role of the community council, while an advisory body could bring long-term direction to the Common Good.

Secondly, the idea that councillors should belong to a national party to have any impact is nonsense. The opposite is the case.

Local government throughout Britain has suffered enormously from being taken over by national parties. This is because national party councillors are accountable to party HQ in Edinburgh or London.

A classic example is the way in which Scottish Borders Council handed its powers over strategic planning to the Edinburgh City Region. While councillors of all the national parties remained tight-lipped, only the Borders Party spoke out against this surrender.

Many of our supporters have separate allegiance to national parties when it comes to national elections, and rightly so. But they recognise that when it comes to local government it’s better to have dedicated, independent representatives who are accountable to local people.

Nicholas Watson

(leader, the Borders Party)