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Tories lose ground at SBC as former top cop wins by-election

Published: 30 May 2014 07:300 comments

By Andrew Keddie

A FORMER senior police officer who deserted the Lib Dems to stand as an Independent has been elected to Scottish Borders Council.

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Watson McAteer was returned to serve the three-member Hawick and Denholm ward at Thursday’s by-election which was called after the death of Conservative councillor Zandra Elliot in February.

Mr McAteer, 60, won 732 first preference votes in the contest, ahead of his nearest rival Trevor Adams, 56, the former huntsman of the Buccleuch Foxhounds, who was seeking to retain the ward for the Tories. Mr Adams polled 622 first preference votes.

Compounding a miserable performance for the Lib Dems at the Euro and English local government elections, Ian Turnbull came third in first preferences with 450, with the SNP’s Harry Stoddart fourth on 419 and three Independents – Marion Short, Davie Paterson jnr and Craig Bryson – bringing up the rear.

The turnout was 39.25 per cent.

The count of single transferable votes took place at Newtown on Friday morning with Mr McAteer, who unsuccessfully fought the seat as a Lib Dem in 2012, being declared the winner at the seventh phase.

In a distinguished career, Mr McAteer, a former president of Hawick Rotary Club, rose through the ranks to become divisional police commander for the Borders.

He was involved in the investigation of several major incidents, including the PanAm disaster in Lockerbie, and he coordinated emergency operations during the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001.

During his by-election campaign, he stressed his local knowledge of issues affecting the ward and pledged to work to rejuvenate the local economy and ensure young people have opportunities through education and jobs and that the elderly are properly respected. He joins Alistair Cranston (SNP) and Stuart Marshall (Ind) as Hawick and Denholm’s councillors.

Mr McAteer’s election depletes the strength of the Conservative opposition on the 34-member SBC to nine councillors, although the party was keen to stress that, in terms of first preferences, Mr Adams had increased its share of the vote by eight per cent in the ward compared to the 2012 polls.

After the declaration, SBC chief executive Tracey Logan, in her role as returning officer, congratulated and welcomed Councillor McAteer.

“I’m please to say the count ran smoothly,” she added.

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