Borders council leader rejects calls to forfeit part of pay during election campaign

Shona Haslam launching her campaign for the Lanark and Hamilton East seat.Shona Haslam launching her campaign for the Lanark and Hamilton East seat.
Shona Haslam launching her campaign for the Lanark and Hamilton East seat.
Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam has rejected calls to forfeit part of her pay for the next month while campaigning to become MP for Lanark and Hamilton East in South Lanarkshire.

The Tweeddale East councillor says she will stand down if she wins the marginal seat for the Conservatives at December 12’s UK Government general election, but in the meantime she is juggling her local authority duties here with hitting the campaign trail further north in Lanark, Carluke and Hamilton.

With her political future uncertain, though, some Borderers are querying her commitment to her current roles.

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Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson is among those expressing disquiet, prompted by voters asking if the mother of two is still claiming special responsibility payments during the current election campaign.

Shona Haslam on the campaign trail.Shona Haslam on the campaign trail.
Shona Haslam on the campaign trail.

In response, Mrs Haslam has made it clear she will continue to pocket her £34,000-a-year salary as she will be “still working away busily as a councillor and leader”.

She added: “My responsibilities and duties as a councillor and council leader do not stop for the election and neither will I.

“Things do tend to quieten down at the council during the election period, with a lot of meetings cancelled as officers are busy preparing to deliver the election.

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“However, my core duties as a local councillor will not be affected. I will still be responding to and dealing with my constituents’ enquiries.”

Mr Paterson is unconvinced, however, saying: “My constituent raised the issue of whether the leader would be claiming her member’s and special responsibility allowance while out canvassing to get elected as an MP.

“It doesn’t seem right, my constituent was saying to me, when she will not be looking after her constituents’ interests for five weeks.

“I am not against anyone standing for Parliament, but should she be still taking her expenses for the five weeks of campaigning?”

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Mrs Haslam is up against sitting Scottish National Party MP Angela Crawley, Labour’s Andrew Hilland and Liberal Democrat Jane Pickard at next month’s election as things stand, though nominations don’t close until this Thursday, November 14.

Ms Crawley has held the seat since 2015, retaining it with a majority of 266 at 2017’s general election by polling 16,444 votes to Conservative contender Poppy Corbett’s 16,178.