First Minister pays tribute to volunteers during visit to flood-hit Hawick

Scotland’s First Minister paid tribute to Hawick’s resilience and community spirit throughout the weekend’s weather emergency during a visit to the flood-hit town on Monday.

By Kathryn Wylie
Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 9:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 10:00 am
Hawick Flood Group volunteers Andy Lewis, Marion Chrystie, Stuart Marshall and Mick Robertson with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Hawick Flood Group volunteers Andy Lewis, Marion Chrystie, Stuart Marshall and Mick Robertson with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon visited Mansfield Road residents, who narrowly escaped being flooded during Storm Dennis on Saturday, before talking with the town’s flood group volunteers and council chiefs.

She said: “I am always so incredibly impressed by the way in which communities living under pretty extreme stress, as this community is, does when the weather is like this, the way in which communities come together, the volunteer effort and the statutory agencies and responders as well.

“Part of the reason for coming down here today is to thank you to people for that.

Nicola Sturgoen with Mansfield Road residents Mr and Mrs Gray.

“For those of us who don’t live under this constant threat or ongoing threat of flooding it is difficult to imagine just how stressful and anxious that is for people. But it does make it all the more important that there is such a strong and resilient community.

“We know the impact of flooding is devastating and for those that live with this fear of flooding it’s really difficult to overstate the impact this has on their lives.

“I’ve been speaking with one couple today who had to be evacuated over the weekend and came very close to having their home flooded. Thankfully it wasn’t.

“The community responds magnificently at times like this.”

“People here, understandably, want to see these flood defences to give them the permanent assurance that they need.”

Hawick’s £44m flood protection scheme is due for completion in 2022, with preparation work currently underway.

Ms Sturgeon added: “I absolutely understand that people think these schemes take a long time, and they do take a long time from option appraisals, to consultations to getting the statutory approvals in place, before construction can even start. It is a lengthy process.

“Take the one here in Hawick and we are at the point where work will start very soon.

“People here want to looks at ways in which that timescale can be accelerated if at all possible, but it’s really important that not withstanding these time scales we keep on with this work.

“Reducing flood risk is a priority for the Scottish Government. That is why we are providing local authorities with £42 million each year through the Local Government Capital Grant to help them invest in flood protection measures.”

The council’s chief executive Tracey Logan said the flood protection scheme is “absolutely on time” and added: “The Scottish Government is aware of our issues in Hawick after our last flooding in Storm Desmond in 2015.

“It was good to see the First Minister come down and see what is going to be happening here.

“We are about to get started on our flood protection scheme in Hawick which is around £60m worth of investment in the flood scheme.

“The scheme is absolutely on time and if you look around Hawick you can see that enabling works have already started and we are just going through the final parts of the process.

“Work on the build starts in March and we are hoping it will be fully completed by the end of 2022, so it’s really on track to move forward now.”

Last week Borders MP John Lamont also paid tribute in the House of Commons at Westminester to the voluntary and emergency response in the Borders during Storm Ciara, which hit Hawick particularly badly, the town hitting the headlines as part of Sonia’s Bistro and guest house collapsed into the Teviot.

He said: “The footage from the building collapsing in Hawick was truly shocking. It is a miracle that no one was hurt. It is a timely reminder of how powerful nature can be.

“I know that the emergency services and the Hawick Flood Group have done a power of work in recent days ensuring that everyone has been kept well informed and as safe as possible.

“This will be a tough time for those affected by the flooding. As ever, I am ready to help in whatever way possible as their local MP.

“This storm has also been a useful reminder of the need to ensure that Hawick’s flood protection scheme is completed as quickly as possible.”