OPEN LETTER TO NEWLY ELECTED COUNCILLORS – SCOTTISH BORDERS COUNCIL

(whilst specific percentages and situations may differ, this may well apply in other local authority areas too)

It is now almost one week since last week’s polls for local authority elections closed and it looks like we might have to wait until next week before an announcement is made regarding ‘control’ / ‘ruling’ of the newly elected council here in the Scottish Borders. Perhaps it is time that you remembered that significantly more than 50% of the electorate didn’t vote for any of you; consequently it is perhaps time that you tried to adopt an alternative approach to the tried and ‘failed’ ‘ruling’ group and ‘opposition’ way of operating. None of you should be deluded into believing that you have been elected to ‘rule’, you have been given the privilege of being given an opportunity to seek to achieve what is best for the people living in the SBC administrative area. There is undoubtedly a limit to what you can and can’t do due to increasing centralisation of fiscal control to both Holyrood and Westminster. Within the scope of what you can do, it really is time to reflect on the way we, the electorate, have allowed you to operate. We will never agree on everything, nor will you. Ideally you should have been elected as a real person and not as some puppet representative of some political party, so you should always aim to ensure that you put the needs and desires of the residents in your constituency first in every decision you make. Personally I do not believe that party politics should be allowed government at any level, but I also accept that utopia remains elusive and highly impractible. Every time you vote according to a party line you go further down in my estimation, and I suspect this may well be one of the reasons why so many truly believe that there is little point in voting as nothing will really change as far as it effects individuals on a daily basis. Apart from an ability to run proceedings efficiently, it really shouldn’t matter who chairs committees of is appointed to similar positions of responsibility as their personal views shouldn’t matter, even registering a casting vote should be based on their objective understanding of what their constituents feel. Appointment should not be an opportunity for self aggrandizement, it should simply be viewed as an honour to be able to be able to effect the best possible decisions for local residents. It is high time that you attempted to work with, rather than against each other and genuinely seek to achieve true consensus whenever possible, at all times.

 

My analysis of the recent results are as follows:

  • by my calculations the average turnout across the region was 42% of registered voters = 58% couldn’t care who represents them or don’t believe that it makes any real difference who represents them.
  • 29% of elected councillors are nominally Conservatives = 71% ARE NOT
  • 26% of elected councillors are nominally Scottish Nationalists = 74% ARE NOT
  • 20% of elected councillors are nominally Independent = 80% ARE NOT
  • 18% of elected councillors are nominally Liberal Democrats = 82% ARE NOT
  • 6% of elected councillors are nominally Borders Partyists – 94% ARE NOT

PLEASE DO NOT BE DELUDED INTO BELIEVING THAT ANY OF YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A VALID MANDATE!

Our system of democracy may be better than that in place in other countries, but it does enable people to get elected whilst failing to represent the opinions of a majority of the electorate. In years gone by people have sacrificed so much to help us to get the representation that we have, low turnouts are a tremendous insult to the memories of those who struggled and gave so much. The system may be better than what many others in the world have but it is severely devalued when so few feel that they are able or willing to engage with the process. Perhaps it is time to consider compulsory voting for the UK, but I suspect that it would be far more productive to seek to achieve a situation where people felt motivated to vote positively rather than forced to under threat of prosecution, and subsequently vote negatively.

To finish on a positive note I would like to thank all who put themselves forward for election, whether successful or not, for all my criticism it really is essential that some people are prepared to put themselves in the firing line for what is inevitably, both an essential and a thankless task. Whilst many may feel that local government is the least ‘important’ tier, I believe that low turnouts in local government elections simply accelerates the tendency for other tiers to seek to centralise control. Only by airing and discussing various opinions, is it really possible to make positive progress.

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