Cllr Shona Haslam is the Leader of Scottish Borders Council.
Six months ago I was selected to be the Conservative candidate for Tweeddale East Ward. Tweeddale is the most idyllic, beautiful constituency. We have everything from rolling hills, grand rivers, historic towns, and mountain biking. The constituency is most definitely rural and my little car has felt the effects of a long and busy campaign.
At the count the local SNP MP asked me, “so when did you decide to stand for council?”. I replied “when I was about 5 years old”. It has been a journey – I am now 42.
So why did it take so long? Well the short answer is – life. Life gets in the way of following your dreams sometimes, kids, husbands, mortgages, and just general business means that often our plans can take a back seat to the practicalities of life. But I have finally made it; I have been elected as a councillor for Scottish Borders Council.
The most enjoyable part of the campaign was knocking on doors and meeting the people of the constituency. Responses were fifty fifty: half of people wanted to talk about roads, local schools, and infrastructure; while the other half wanted to talk about the SNP and independence. It was a tricky balancing act, my leaflets reflected these conversations with both local and national issues being reflected. This led to criticism from some that I shouldn’t be talking about national issues at a local election, and I confess it did cause me some concern during the campaign. I wasn’t sure how this would be reflected in the results or how it would influence voters.
Election day came around all too quickly, and I was filled with doubt; should I have knocked on more doors? Could I have delivered more leaflets? What about that coffee morning I missed? I had an amazing team in place for polling day and we knocked on hundreds of doors to ensure that we got the vote out.
One thing that I was really struck by was the number of people who had never voted Conservative before, and in Scotland that is a big thing! There is still a great deal of hurt around events of the 1980’s and many of my friends and colleagues commented that they could not believe they were voting for a Conservative. But the momentum in Scotland is most definitely with Ruth and her team.
So I rode the wave, I polled just over 1,800 first preference votes, twice those of the SNP candidate.
The days that followed were a whirlwind of media interviews and celebrations. But then, in true Yes Minister style, the phone rang:
“Would you consider being the Leader of the Council?”
I did think that perhaps, after the election, my life would calm down slightly. Instead it has just become more hectic. But I am loving every minute, and I am following my dream. Did my life get in the way? Not at all. Life prepares you for whatever it has in store for you in the future. The future is looking incredibly exciting, challenging, busy and fulfilling and the time is right for me to grab this opportunity with both hands.