Borders council leader Shona Haslam vying to be MP at general election

Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam is hoping to swap Newtown for Westminster after announcing that she will be running for a seat at next month’s UK Government general election.

Monday, 4th November 2019, 11:54 am
Council leader Shona Haslam at Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.

The Tweeddale East councillor has been selected as the Conservatives’ candidate for Lanark and Hamilton East in South Lanarkshire at December’s election.

In a tweet yesterday, the mother of two, of Peebles, wrote: “I’m absolutely chuffed to bits at being selected as the candidate for Lanark and Hamilton East.

“I will work so hard to win this marginal seat.

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“Only the Scottish Tories will stand up for the union and against the Scottish National Party.”

Mrs Haslam has been leader of the council since May 2017, overseeing high-profile capital projects such as handing out iPads to every high school pupil and drawing up plans to rebuild the region’s schools.

Her Conservative administration, propped up by independent councillors, has also funded two community action police teams, tasked with patrolling the Borders and tackling community priorities such as drug dealing, antisocial behaviour and speeding. 

However, not all her policies have been so popular.

After raising council tax by the maximum allowance of 3% in December 2018, Mrs Haslam’s administration then decided to raise the council tax by a further 1% two months later.

The ruling Conservatives have also made cuts to popular services such as grass-cutting, libraries and rural bus routes.

Lanark and Hamilton East, held by the SNP’s Angela Crawley since 2015, is one of the most marginal seats in Scotland, having been held by a majority of just 266 at 2017’s general election.

Ms Crawley, the SNP’s spokesperson for women and equalities, polled 16,444 votes that time round, little more than half the 26,976 she got two years earlier.

Conservative contender Poppy Corbett was in second place with 16,178 votes, and third-placed Labour’s Andrew Hilland wasn’t far behind, with 16,084.

Mrs Haslam has confirmed that she will step down as council leader if elected, saying: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to stand as a candidate in this election in the neighbouring seat of Lanark and Hamilton East.

“With only an SNP majority of only 266 votes, it is a key marginal.

“The Conservative Party are the only party who are standing up for the union who have a chance to taking this seat from the nationalists.  

“If elected, I would have to stand down as council leader, which would be a huge regret for me.  

“I love being a local councillor and leader of the council but obviously could not do both – but there is an election to win first, and a lot of work to do.”

If elected, Mrs Haslam, 44, would be the first Borders councillor to move on to national government since fellow Tory Michelle Ballantyne secured a South Scotland list seat at Holyrood in May 2017, giving up her Selkirkshire seat on the council seven months later.

Next month’s election takes place on Thursday, December 12.