Leader pours scorn on call to step down
The SNP group of councillors at Scottish Borders Council has called for Shona Haslam to step down as leader after it was announced that she is seeking election as an MSP.
However, Mrs Haslam, who represents Tweeddale East, is contesting the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale seat at the Holyrood election for the Scottish Conservatives, says she will not do so, and that she will not “lose focus” as council leader as she attempts to usurp the SNP’s Christine Grahame from the constituency.
Councillor Stuart Bell, the leader of the opposition SNP group at the council, said: “Personally I wish Councillor Haslam well if she is choosing to contest the Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale seat at the Holyrood election, but she will have a hard fight trying to unseat the SNP contestant, the very experienced and trusted Christine Grahame MSP.
“It is clear from Shona’s choice last year to contest a Lanarkshire seat to become an MP that she is more interested in a national political career, than in leading the Scottish Borders Council, so we are calling on her to now resign as leader of the council.”
“It is one thing for a back-bench councillor to seek to become an MP or an MSP,” added Heather Anderson, SNP Deputy Group Leader and Councillor for Tweeddale West, “But Councillor Haslam was elected as the leader of the council with responsibilities right across the Borders.
“To again seek national election is not compatible with remaining as leader of this council.
“It is absolutely not right that public money is used to pay her a supplement for council leadership duties while she is off fighting, for and concentrating on, national politics.”
“Councillor Haslam can meet her responsibilities in the local ward well enough,” added Mr Bell who is a Tweeddale East Councillor in the same ward as Mrs Haslam. “But it is not right that Borderers pay her to be the council leader and she is off campaigning to be elected to somewhere else.”
“I know that political priorities are difficult to balance.” added Cllr Anderson who herself, if very briefly, was an MEP.
“But there are enormous pressures right now on our local authority as we cope with Covid-19, as we navigate through the completely unknown problems of Brexit, and as our council helps a new chief executive into office in a few months’ time.
“Shona Haslam wants to be a member of the Scottish Parliament. I completely respect her decision to do that, but it’s not acceptable to also remain as the council Leader during the contest over such a crucial time.”
Mrs Haslam told us: “I can assure everyone in the Scottish Borders that there will be no loss of focus or lack of energy from me as council leader during the run up to the parliamentary elections.
“Perhaps this is more a case of sour grapes as I know Councillor Anderson wanted to fight the seat for the SNP, but lost to Christine Grahame.
“I want to see more women at every level of Government, whether that be local or national.
“In fact I wrote to Councillor Anderson when she became a MEP, congratulating her and wishing her well.
“It is just a shame that Cllr Bell does not seem to share the same ambition.
“We should have more women in leadership, not less, and I am disappointed that it appears he disagrees.”