IN the week back in early May when Michelle Ballantyne was re-elected to serve the Selkirkshire ward for the Conservatives on Scottish Borders Council, she also learned she was about to become an MSP.
At the time, Mrs Ballantyne, who had led the Tory group at Newtown, said she would continue as a backbench councillor for the foreseeable future and donate her council salary of £17,000 a year to charity.
This week Mrs Ballantyne has confirmed that the beneficiary of that largesse is The Haining Charitable Trust which was set up to manage the eponymous Selkirk mansion and estate bequeathed in 2009 to the “people of Selkirkshire and beyond”.
“From this month, I will be donating my councillor’s salary to the trust,” she told us.
Mrs Ballantyne was sworn in as an MSP on May 23 by dint of her being placed sixth on her party’s South of Scotland regional list at the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections.
She was thus “next in line” following the decision of Tory incumbent Rachael Hamilton to resign as a list MSP and fight – successfully - the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Selkirkshire Holyrood seat on June 8 by-election.
On Sunday, Mrs Ballantyne was one of several MSPs featured in a national newspaper report of “double-jobbing” Scottish parliamentarians who make money from other jobs on top of their £61,778 MSP’s salary.
The article alluded to her declaring up to £10,000 a year for working two hours a month as a director of Walkerburn manufacturing company Ballantynes of Walkerburn which is run by her husband Neil.
Mrs Ballantyne told the Border Telegraph: “All the information about my other earnings is freely available on my register of interests on the Scottish Parliament’s website, but I am happy to confirm that, apart from donating my council’s salary to The Haining Charitable Trust, I have also given up all my other income-generating activities, including my work with my family’s company.”
Mrs Ballantyne added that, on May 23, she had ceased to be head of service for charitable company Stable Life Ltd – a 20 hours-a-week position which earned her between £15,000 and £20,000 a year. She now provides consultancy to the charity on a voluntary basis.
Mrs Ballantyne’s register of interests confirms that she owns voting, ordinary and preferential shares in Ballantynes of Walkerburn. Representing 37.69% of the company’s issued share capital, these shares currently have a market value of around £160,000.
It also reveals she is the Managing Trustee of The Haining Charitable Trust.
Meanwhile, the register of interests of Mrs Hamilton, a director of the Buccleuch Arms in St Boswells, is, according to the Scottish Parliament’s website, “being prepared and will be published here in due course”.