Row on the cards over Borders politicians’ Christmas card contests

Alfie Gorill, a P5 pupil at Kirkhope Primary School at Ettrickbridge, won 2017's Christmas card competition run by MSP Rachael Hamilton and MP John Lamont.
Alfie Gorill, a P5 pupil at Kirkhope Primary School at Ettrickbridge, won 2017's Christmas card competition run by MSP Rachael Hamilton and MP John Lamont.

A row is on the cards between rival politicians over concerns voiced about their Christmas competitions.

Scottish Borders Council officials had banned its schools from taking part in festive greetings card contests run by Borders MP John Lamont and MSPs Christine Grahame and Rachael Hamilton, but they have now reversed that decision subject to pupils securing parental consent before entering.

MSP Christine Grahame with 2017 Christmas competition winner Rory Scott at Sacred Heart Primary School in Penicuik.

MSP Christine Grahame with 2017 Christmas competition winner Rory Scott at Sacred Heart Primary School in Penicuik.

“We have taken a decision to allow our schoolchildren to enter competitions like this, but we ask that they have the consent of their parents or guardians,” said a council spokesperson.

“This is in response to some previous concerns raised with us about the involvement of pupils in competitions organised by politicians.

“We welcome communication with any of the area’s local politicians and would be happy to discuss this further.”

That change of heart ahead of the season of goodwill has failed to appease Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Ms Grahame, however.

She remains critical of the council’s handling of the controversial Christmas card competitions, saying: “I am extremely careful not to have any kind of political implication in my competitions.

“There is, quite rightly, no mention of the SNP or any political message.

“I fear that Mr Lamont’s and Ms Hamilton’s somewhat more extravagant competition, with political branding, personal prizes and corporate sponsorship, has resulted in unhappy parents and the council taking a blanket approach.

“Whilst I can understand this, I’m disappointed that competitions weren’t looked at on a case-by-case basis.

“I understand schools can now participate ‘with parental agreement, if it is not politically motivated and there are no political implications’.

“However, I fear this whole situation may have put Borders teachers off entirely.

“It’s a great shame as I continue to receive entries from Midlothian schools which then benefit from learning more about charity at Christmas and a donation to a local charity in their name.”

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP Mr Lamont has also hit out at the council, saying: “Running my annual Christmas card competition is a highlight of my year.

“It’s always great to see the look on the face of the winner when they get their new bike, electric scooter or favourite toy.

“I’m not sure what objection someone has taken to this competition, which I’ve run problem-free for years. No one at Scottish Borders Council has explained it to me.

“I’d like to assure all the young people in the Borders that Christmas will not be cancelled despite this mean-spirited move.

I’d encourage pupils in the Borders to think creatively, get out your colouring pencils and glitter pens and send an entry in anyway.”

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Mrs Hamilton added: “Surely our local authority doesn’t want to be like the Grinch and steal Christmas from our young creative school pupils who are brimming with festive inspiration, ideas and imagination.

“Perhaps the fairies and elves can sprinkle some Christmas cheer over the bah-humbug officials.”

Ms Grahame has run a competition to design a Christmas card for her for the past 19 years, and Mr Lamont has done likewise for the past 12 years, initially as an MSP and as a joint effort with his successor as constituency MSP, Mrs Hamilton, since last year.

The controversy over their contest has prompted the two Tories to put back their deadline for entries to this Friday, November 23.