COUNCILLOR Michelle Ballantyne, leader of the 15-strong Conservative group on Scottish Borders Council, was sworn in as a South of Scotland MSP at Holyrood yesterday (Tuesday).

The mother-of-six says she is keeping her options open about how long she will remain at Newtown as one of three elected members for the Selkirkshire ward.

“Things have happened so quickly and, with regard to Holyrood, quite unexpectedly,” she said.

“While I am delighted to become an MSP, I feel I still have a duty to my constituents in Selkirkshire so I will continue to exercise the dual mandate, which allows me to be both a councillor and an MSP at the same time, for the immediate future.

“I would like to see the new ruling administration my party has formed with the Independents on the council have a chance to bed down and become established, so I am keeping my options open regarding the exact time of my departure.”

Mrs Ballantyne said she would donate her councillor’s salary to charity.

Backbench councillors on SBC currently pick up a basic allowance of just under £17,000 a year.

When she decides the time is right to go, a by-election will be held in Selkirkshire to decide who will replace her at Newtown.

Mrs Ballantyne’s ascendancy to Holyrood is by dint of her being placed sixth on her party’s regional list in the South of Scotland at the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections.

She is thus ‘next in line’ following the decision of Conservative Rachael Hamilton to resign as a list MSP and to fight the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire by-election on June 8.

Originally trained as a nurse, Mrs Ballantyne graduated with a BSc in Quality Management at Heriot Watt University, joining NHS Lothian as an operational manager in 2011.

In 2005 she became head of service of the Galashiels-based drug and alcohol support service face2face and was first elected to SBC for the Selkirkshire ward in 2012.

She is a director of her husband Neil’s company Ballantynes of Walkerburn which manufactures figurines.