Michelle Ballantyne MSP bites back at calls for her resignation

South Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne.
South Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne.

Michelle Ballantyne has spoken out against criticism from her peers following the furore which erupted after her address at Holyrood last week.

The South Scotland Conservative list MSP came in for widespread condemnation for her defence of universal credit and its two-child limit for benefit handouts during a Scottish Parliament debate on poverty and inequality last week.

Christine Grahame MSP.

Christine Grahame MSP.

Since then Mrs Ballantyne has received calls for her to resign from her position and been dubbed a hypocrite.

SNP Christine Grahame MSP has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament condemning those comments. She also claimed Mrs Ballantyne’s position as patron of a Borders foodbank “where she will have come face-to-face with people driven into hardship by Tory welfare cuts” as the “height of hypocrisy”.

She said:“Nobody who holds these deeply troubling views on people who rely on the safety net of the welfare state should hold a front bench role on this very issue. She should resign. And if she won’t, she should be sacked.

“And now it transpires she’s the patron of a foodbank – it’s the absolute height of hypocrisy.

“How can she look people in the Borders in the eye when it’s her own party’s damaging cuts driving them to rely on foodbanks just to survive?

“It wasn’t a slip of the tongue – these abhorrent views are deeply held. However, that doesn’t make them acceptable.

“Her position as Tory welfare spokesperson is now completely untenable.”

In response, Mrs Ballantyne said this week: “Back when I was a candidate, and Ms Grahame was already a sitting MSP, we were all invited by the foodbank, Food, Fact and Friends, to get involved. Only I chose to do so. It beggars belief that she now has the gall to criticise my involvement with them.

“This highlights the difference between her and I. She is playing politics with a serious issue whilst I am engaging in the debate and taking a hands-on approach to helping out where I can.

“The fact of the matter is that I believe that we all share the same responsibilities. Part of that means that those on benefits should face the same decisions when it comes to family planning as those who fund themselves solely through work.

“As Deputy Presiding Officer, I would have hoped that Ms Grahame would have acted in a manner more appropriate to her position rather than indulging in political point-scoring.”

Closer to home, Mrs Ballantyne’s former colleague on Scottish Borders Council, independent Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson has also spoken out against her views.

He is calling for the council’s Conservative-led executive to push for Mrs Ballatyne’s removal from the front bench.

In a letter to council leader Shona Haslam this week, he said: “All sorts of words have been used to describe Mrs Ballantyne’s comments. These, in my opinion, are some of the cruellest, insensitive, ignorant uncaring comments that I can recall ever being made by any MSP of any party.

“Is this MSP acting alone or is this what most Scottish Tories also want?

“If you agree with me will your administration be writing to the Scottish Tory party leadership urging them at least to have this MSP removed from the front bench and at best to have this MSP removed from the Scottish Parliament as quickly as possible.”