Shadow cabinet role for former Selkirkshire councillor Michelle Ballantyne

Conservative list MSP Michelle Ballantyne.
Conservative list MSP Michelle Ballantyne.

Former Selkirkshire councillor Michelle Ballantyne has been given the role of shadow social security secretary by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

The South Scotland Tory list MSP replaces Glasgow MSP Adam Tomkins, allowing him to focus more on his role as the party’s constitution spokesman.

The 55-year-old has been a list MSP for a year, replacing Rachael Hamilton following her resignation to contest, and win, the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency seat last June.

The mother of six, of Ashiestiel, near Caddonfoot, was previously Scottish Borders Council’s Conservative group leader and was one of the authority’s three councillors for Selkirkshire from 2012 until December last year.

She was replaced as a councillor by independent Caroline Penman following a by-election in February.

Mrs Ballantyne said: “There’s no doubt that this is going to be a big challenge and a brief that we have to get right for the people of Scotland.

“We supported the devolution of a range of welfare powers, and it is incumbent on us now to use them effectively.

“I am delighted that Ruth has placed her confidence in me, and I look forward to working closely with my colleagues in my new role.”

Ms Davidson, MSP for Edinburgh Central, said: “I am delighted to welcome Michelle Ballantyne to the Scottish Conservative front bench as shadow cabinet secretary for social security.

“Michelle’s background in nursing, health service management and her work in the third sector providing specialist drug and alcohol support means she brings a wealth of experience to this important brief.

“With so many new powers over welfare coming to the Scottish Parliament, Michelle will be leading the debate for the Scottish Conservatives on how those powers should be best shaped and used in future.

“I thank Adam Tomkins for his hard work in this brief and look forward to him concentrating his full powers on constitutional affairs.”

Mrs Ballantyne is also a director of Ballantynes of Walkerburn, a gift-manufacturing and crystal-engraving firm she set up with her husband Neil, 57,in 1990.