Nine SNP councillors today celebrated a satisfying uplift in the party vote. Speaking at the count in Eildon Mill, Tweedbank, Group Leader John Mitchell, said: “Our group is now 50 per cent larger than it was and that is great news. Our capacity to make a difference is greater than ever before.”
After thanking voters across all 11 wards, Cllr Mitchell said the real work was now underway. Discussions will take place over the next several days with both individuals and parties to ensure that voters’ interests are fully and fairly represented throughout the Borders.
“Electors have put their trust in us and we will deliver on that trust. We are living in financially difficult times with tightly squeezed budgets but we will ensure that the most vulnerable are protected and that services are maintained.”
Jobs and investment will be central to the SNP’s strategy as it drives to improve prospects for young school leavers and opportunities for those who are unemployed. The group will work with colleagues in the Council to build consensus on big issues that matter to every single individual across the region.
The group is determined to bring transparency and openness to Council business by changing the existing scrutiny structure to a committee-based one that would empower elected members. It also wants to bring certain committees and some full Council meetings out to local communities so that people have greater involvement in big local issues.
Building stronger local engagement is fundamental to the SNP approach: “Encouraging grass roots organisations to help revitalize civic pride in our towns and villages and empower our communities is at the centre of local government. We want to increase that sense of pride in our heritage,” said Cllr Mitchell.
As a result of today’s election, existing SNP councillors Donald Moffat (Mid-Berwickshire), Willie Archibald (Tweeddale West) Bill Herd (Galashiels and District) John Mitchell (Galashiels and District) and Jim Brown (Jedburgh and District) are joined by new party councillors Jim Torrance (Leaderdale and Melrose), Stuart Bell (Tweeddale East) Joan Campbell (East Berwickshire) and Alastair Cranston (Hawick and Denholm).
Paul Wheelhouse MSP, SNP regional member for the South of Scotland, said after the count: “I’m absolutely delighted with this result, which continues the progress we have been making across the Borders in recent years. All 12 of our hard working candidates fought a positive campaign focused on restoring greater democracy to our Council and on the need to deliver investment in services, jobs and our young people in challenging times. The endorsement they have received represents a major advance for the party in the Borders and a disappointing night for others.
Paul added: “It is clear that local voters have chosen to put the SNP at the very heart of decision making in Scottish Borders Council, where we hope to use our connections with colleagues in the SNP Scottish Government to the benefit of the Borders.”
Newly elected Councillor Stuart Bell added: “I congratulate and give thanks to all my fellow councillors, whom I know will work hard and unremittingly to do their very best for people in the Borders. Negotiations with other parties over the composition of the council’s administration will now start and I hope everyone will engage in a positive manner with colleagues so that, together, we can bring real improvements and that the interests of everyone living in the Scottish Borders remain paramount.”