Scottish Borders Council set for new chief as local Conservatives ditch leader

  • Video report by Greg Hoare

When Scottish Borders Council declared its first election result before any other local authority, it gave an early indication of the struggles of the Scottish Conservatives. 

The party, which along with independent councillors formed the previous council administration, lost 11% of its share of the vote. 

That only translated to losing one councillor, however there was another casualty.

Former council leader Mark Rowley was ousted from his role as leader of the Borders Conservative Group, and replaced by Euan Jardine.

It means even if the local authority remains under Conservative control, Scottish Borders Council will have a new leader.

Councillor Rowley led the council for less than six months, but Councillor Jardine told Representing Border the former leader was not "pushed out". 

"It was always the aim of the Conservative group after the election to look at it and refresh and see where we're standing, and I was nominated and seconded and I won the vote."

Councillor Jardine said his party had a mandate to form the next council administration, and he would "put his hat into the ring" to be leader. 

He said negotiations were ongoing with independent and Scottish Liberal Democrat councillors.

A vote on who will form the administration is expected to take place at the council meeting on 19 May.

Scottish Conservatives are also the largest group on Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Last time they missed out on power thanks to a partnership between the SNP and Scottish Labour.

The SNP are open to continuing that, and are also speaking to other councillors including Conservatives and independents. 

Councillor Stephen Thompson said his party would consider working with Jim Dempster, who left Scottish Labour after admitting making Islamophobic comments about Humza Yousaf - at the time the SNP's Justice Secretary. 

Councillor Dempster was re-elected as an independent. 

"Clearly he's been elected democratically, it would be unfair of me to comment about another party's disciplinary process and I think things have moved on a little bit since then. But I'll be happily speaking to Jim to welcome him back as a councillor, but also just to find out what his intentions and priorities would be for Dumfries and Galloway."

Scottish Labour's leader Anas Sarwar went into the election ruling out partnerships between his party and the SNP.

However, local Labour councillors have told us they are open to another such agreement, and have ruled out working with the Conservatives, so another SNP/Labour administration is likely.

Dumfries and Galloway was, however, one of few areas to see an increase in the Conservative vote share, and the local party is not giving up on taking power.

Councillor Gail Macgregor said: "we have an absolute mandate to try and form an administration in Dumfries and Galloway or even operate a minority administration."

A new Dumfries and Galloway Council administration is expected to be voted in at the local authority's meeting on 24 May.