Galashiels lacks civic pride - claim

Published: 3 May 2012 09:300 comments

AN OUTSPOKEN councillor left his opponents speechless after criticising local residents on the eve of the election - and then asking them to vote for him.

Councillor Bill Herd.

Scottish National Party candidate Bill Herd, who currently represents Tweeddale East on Scottish Borders Council, accused his would-be constituents in Galashiels of lacking civic pride during a hustings meeting in the town's Volunteer Hall on Monday night.

He revealed he had been shocked at the state of the town while out canvassing for votes in recent weeks. And, he claimed, there appeared to be a lack of groups willing to do anything to improve their community.

However, the former teacher, who described himself as a "proud Galalean", insisted he was the man to clean up the town and should represent Galashiels and District on the council for the next five years.

Councillor Herd, who arrived at the meeting late, said: "I really think we are lacking civic pride in Galashiels. There seems to be more civic pride in Peebles where they have the Callants."

But he added: "In Galashiels, we are lacking a group of people who will orchestrate something of a vision for the town and seek out where we can make effective changes. There are areas of deprivation here which have always been areas of deprivation."

The SNP candidate was forced to back track over his comments after being challenged by his party colleague John Mitchell, who is also standing for Galashiels and District in the forthcoming local government elections and has represented the town on the local authority for the past two decades.

He admitted the town had its problems but said it had not reached the same "depths of despair" as others he had visited.

Conservative Party candidate Fiona Lackenby accused Councillor Herd of an attack on the Braw Lads' Gathering, local residents groups and others who dedicated their time to make the town an attractive place to live.

Meanwhile, Independent candidate Bill White, who organises an annual clean-up of the town as chairman of the community council, was left gob-smacked by his comments.

Mr Herd, who lives in Ladhope Crescent, Galashiels, replied: "I wasn't having a go at the Braw Lads' group. I am a proud Galalean. I was born here 70 years ago." And he added: "I'm sure the Braw Lads' group will understand that."

A member of the Braw Lads' Gathering in attendance at the meeting declined to comment on the record.

However, when asked for his views on Councillor Herd's controversial comments, community councillor Ian Purvis, who chaired the meeting, said: "I think he engaged mouth before brain on that one." But he added: "The important thing is that everyone who attended goes out to vote on Thursday (May 3)."

A total of seven candidates are contesting the four seats in the Galashiels and District ward at this week's Scottish Borders Council elections. They are as follows: Sandy Aitchison (Borders Party), Rick Kenney (Liberal Democrats), Bill White (Independent), Robbie Tatler (Labour), Fiona Lackenby (Consservative) and Bill Herd and John Mitchell (both SNP).

*Councillor Herd was subsequently re-elected.

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