I have now tendered my resignation as a ward councillor for Haddington and Lammermuir and as a member of the East Lothian Conservative and Unionist Association and would like to explain my reasons for doing so.

Firstly I am currently fighting the curse of depression and anxiety which has primarily been triggered by me trying to be a good, conscientious councillor representing not just the people in my ward but throughout the wonderful county that is East Lothian. In spite of me dealing with this illness on top of my sepsis episode, my political group led by Councillor Jane Henderson have seen fit to remove me from various committees without any consultation with me. Indeed on becoming aware of their plans I wrote to the group leader to make it very clear that I did not consent to this course of action.

Councillor Henderson’s last written words to me on the issue were: “I am afraid that my decision stands.” To treat someone who is struggling with serious mental illness in such a heartless manner is beyond my personal comprehension. I cannot countenance working with people who could operate in such a manner.

Having said that, my primary reason for resigning is actually related to other more important matters. It relates to the fact that the Conservative Group on East Lothian Council are letting down those who voted for them. The group is meant to be the opposition but their actions in recent times – and in particular the recent budget – are more reminiscent of a coalition partner. That to me is wholly unacceptable. When I led the group after the last election in 2017 it was our agreed strategy to spend the first 12 months as rookie councillors seeing how the council operated. This was the right strategy at that stage, but most certainly not one for the longer term as far as I was concerned. My plan was then to stand up and be counted as a true opposition to the Labour administration. I encountered two issues with all of this, both of which largely contributed to me resigning as group leader last summer.

I was subjected to a campaign of underhand actions by some members of the Labour Group when they realised how I was planning to move matters in a different direction. Being seen to have conversations with the leader of the SNP was something that really concerned them. I find this sort of behaviour very shallow and lacking in integrity and indeed real leadership.

My view was the Conservative Group should utilise its position as the second largest party to extract a price from the Labour administration in exchange for any support we may be prepared to give them. My ultimate aim was to ensure that the promises the Conservative Group made in their manifesto would be implemented as much as possible by the time of the next local government elections in 2022. Unfortunately, I was a voice in the wilderness within my own group as there seemed to be more of a desire to oppose the SNP Group than the real target of the Labour administration.

I am unable to remain in a group who seem to me to be comfortable being an unofficial coalition partner with Labour. All recent actions by the group and, in particular, the recent budget only help to firm up my views on this.

I believe I am a bit of an idealist by nature and very much like to find the best in people and look for what connects people – and what they might disagree about is of no interest to me. Unfortunately, this approach does not seem conducive to being a fully effective councillor on East Lothian Council. I am currently suffering the full consequences of this, but I know things will now improve for me in all sorts of ways.

Looking back I am extremely proud of the stance I took in ensuring that the Musselburgh Racecourse Associated Committee was cross-party, as it was vital in my view that it was to try and move a very difficult situation forward positively.

I also want to make sure that the East Lothian public are fully aware that without intervention by me and Cllr Stuart Currie, the BHA licence that was due to expire would not have been renewed. The Labour administration, council officers and, indeed, the current leader of the Conservative Group were all prepared to lose it. If we had not intervened then it is my view the racecourse would more than likely be no more. This was something I could not stand back and allow to happen for all sorts of reasons.

I am also very proud of an initiative I have been working on with my son, Andrew, to have some of our more academically gifted pupils at all our senior schools spend a week at Exeter College, the University of Oxford. I have worked hard with Andrew to make sure this initiative will be available to those who will most benefit from it and not those who can afford to do it. Quite a step by a big, bad Tory, eh!

It is quite ironic that someone like me with a track record of being supportive to various pathway initiatives for all our children has been removed from the education committee.

This is also a committee that needs a complete overhaul given the issues that need to be addressed within all our schools currently. To me it is wholly inappropriate that a function of the council which eats up around 50 per cent of the total budget spend only meets three times per year and really does not have much scrutiny applied to it. Once again an issue I have tried to address with little or no support from colleagues.

In closing, I want to pay tribute to those many people in our community that do so much for so many without any or much reward at all. Seeing so much of these people constantly makes me feel very humble and inadequate quite frankly. These are the real heroes of the county and not others who seem to think they are.

I also want to say heartfelt thanks to Provost McMillan who is such a great ambassador for our county and Councillor Tom Trotter. Tom is someone I admire as a thoroughly decent human being and who was also so supportive to me on so much I tried to do throughout our ward. I would now like to be left in peace to make a full recovery from my current ailment, enjoy a long and healthy retirement in the company of my amazing wife Karen, wonderful son Andrew and the rest of my family and friends.

I wish all the people of East Lothian all good things and ask that you ensure those who represent you know what is important to you and your families and not solely to them!

Brian Small