Charges dropped against stick-wielding farmers

The two men are pictured carrying drainage rods, blocking the road for the riders in 2017.
The two men are pictured carrying drainage rods, blocking the road for the riders in 2017.

No action is to be taken against two farmers for trying to disrupt a major cycling event held on closed roads in the Borders just over a year ago.

Police charged two men, aged 71 and 60, after participants in last September’s Tour o’ the Borders claimed they were confronted by protesters waving sticks.

Cyclists alleged they were hit on their heads by the pair as they passed them, causing at least one to fall off his bike.

There had been complaints from some landowners over the closure of public roads in Peeblesshire for the 74-mile challenge involving 2,000 cyclists while harvesting was under way.

The procurator fiscal’s office at Selkirk has confirmed that, following a review of evidence, there will be no legal proceedings in connection with the incident.

The incident was captured on a video showing two men dressed in tweed and flat caps waving sticks and attempting to block the path of the cyclists on the A701 Edinburgh-Dumfries road near Broughton.

One cyclist said: “I came around the corner behind the first group of cyclists, and I noticed they had all slowed down.

“I could see some weaving around, with other cyclists ahead, and noticed two older guys around 70 to 80 years old walking on the road.

“I cycled up towards them and noticed they were both holding out big sticks. I asked them what has happened and was there a problem ahead?

“One of them said ‘you are the problem’. I had to stop my bike and then I pushed with my foot to get past them.”

Following the incident, 60-year-old Broughton farmer John Marshall put his hand up as the ‘ringleader’ of the demonstration.

He had denied hitting any cyclist, saying that he only wanted to open up dialogue with the competitors, and that if any violence was dealt out, it came from the cyclists, who, he claimes, barged the duo out of the way.

The farmers’ behaviour was branded “disgusting” by event organisers at the time and it was claimed one cyclist had to be taken to hospital after falling off his bike.

However, this year’s Tour o’ the Borders three weeks ago passed off peacefully, with no further incidents reported.

Event organiser Neil Dalgleish said: “The decision [not to prosecute] has angered some in the cycling community, while others believe the outcome to be in the best interests of better relations in future.

“There are many who think it’s unacceptable that there’s no prosecution here, that no-one was brought to justice for an alleged act of violence towards people who were innocently riding their bikes.

“I can certainly see their point, but I don’t think this is a green light for violence towards cyclists, nor a sign that it’s OK to bully us.

“My take is that those responsible have learned their lesson – I bet they got a fright with the police at their doors and legal charges against them

“This may well be the case, as despite local rumours that one of the charged individuals had made plans to cause disruption at the event again this year, the tour went ahead a few weeks ago without any protest or incident.

“It was a huge relief that we had no repeat of last year’s incident, and we’re extremely keen to minimise any problems or conflicts – of course we understand that the road closures can cause inconvenience.

“It’s great to see more support and acceptance for the event and for the importance of cycle tourism in this area. The riders got a fantastic reception all the way around the route – no-one was made to feel unwelcome this year.”

Entries have already opened for next year’s event which will take place on Sunday, September 1, 2019.

○We were unable to contact Mr Marshall for comment.