An Ayrshire councilor who was dubbed ‘Scotland’s laziest’ admitted she was ‘horrified’ when she won a seat at the 2017 local elections.
Margaret George made the shocking revelation that she ‘never wanted to be a councillor’ following her party’s calls for an apology from Labor councillor Robert Foster after he repeated the nickname at a February council meeting.
Ms George — who will not be standing for re-election this May — put her name forward for the North Ayrshire Council elections five years ago after the late North Ayrshire Conservative party chairman, Richard Wilkinson, convinced her she didn’t stand a chance of winning.
Since becoming an elected member for the Irvine South ward, Councilor George says she has developed depression and told how the pressure she was under made her think about ending her own life.
she told Ayrshire Live: “To be honest, I never wanted to be a councillor.
“Richard told me I would only be a paper candidate and that there would be absolutely no way I would be elected because there has never been a Conservative councilor in that area before.
“I’m to blame for agreeing to go along with it, I should’ve been firm and said no, but I felt so sorry for Richard because his wife was dying.
“On election day, and it looked like I could actually be elected, it was absolutely horrifying.
“When the results came through I thought, ‘oh no’ and that I’ll just have to make the best of it.
“I was an active churchgoer and I loved the Dreghorn and Springside Parish but people changed towards me as soon as I got elected.
“I couldn’t go to church without people coming up to me talking about their bins not being collected.
“Two weeks after the election, a woman started shouting at me on the street because I hadn’t arranged to hold any surgeries; she was really nasty.
“I don’t even know if I want to carry on living in Dreghorn anymore. In a way, my life is ruined by this.”
Councillor George was criticized for not holding any surgeries during her tenure but revealed this was out of a fear of being attacked.
She bravely recounted how, when she was a student, she was the victim of an attempted rape.
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“I was looking at places to hold surgeries,” she explained. “But I was becoming more and more frightened.
“At 20 years old while at university, an overseas student attempted to rape me while we were alone in a tutorial room. I just managed to get away and that has never gone away. It was one of the worst days of my life and the thought of holding surgeries and it happening again is too much.
“I never told anyone and my husband didn’t know until I confided in Councilor [Todd] Ferguson recently. I felt ashamed and dirty and like it was my fault.”
Last year, Ms George was criticized for taking home an annual salary of £18,604 but only sending on average one email per week throughout her tenure.
She said: “It was not long before the election I found out councillors actually got paid a salary. After tax, I was getting £1,000 every four weeks and that went halfway to pay an assistant.
“And then to my horror, I found out I had to be in Cunninghame House from 9am to 5pm every day of the week until the end of June.
“I became very ill with stress and I could hardly move, it was just a nightmare. I would’ve resigned but it would’ve cost up to £60,000 to hold a by-election and I didn’t want to be responsible for that.”
Councilor George said she had suicidal thoughts following a recent council meeting.
She said: “It was quite a nasty meeting because everyone is getting ready for the election. I thought that my pulling out of the next election would put an end to it but, no, it hasn’t.
“I’ve never worked in an atmosphere like that where everybody hated each other and I was getting more and more stressed and my business was suffering.
“Later that night, I thought I just don’t want to be here. I was suffering from depression anyway and I actually genuinely considered ending my life. My husband was scared I would do it.
“I’m very glad I didn’t, I have a wonderful husband and if anyone is considering suicide, leave it for 24 hours and they are less likely to go through with it.
“My depression and suicidal thoughts were absolutely brought on by this position. I felt trapped.”
Speaking to her constituents, Ms George said: “If there is anyone I should’ve helped but didn’t, I’m very sorry and I was very gratified by the number of people who voted for me; I got more votes than Robert Foster.
“I joined the Conservative party as a social member and the last thing I am is lazy. I’m a very successful, and one of the most qualified financial advisors in Scotland.
“I think once the election is over I’ll start to feel better but I’m dreading the next council meeting.
“I’ve only got over a month left and I was hoping to go out and campaign but after the adverse publicity I’ve gotten, I don’t want to go. I’ll attend council meetings and check my emails for people needing my help and that is my plan until May 5.”
During a council meeting on Wednesday, February 16, Councilor Foster brought attention to the press coverage of the North Ayrshire Conservatives, including the story that dubbed Ms George ‘Scotland’s laziest councillor’.
“I was in total shock and it feels very personal,” she said. “Words have consequences and everyone should be aware of mental health but Robert Foster had no thought about that.
“I do not want an apology from Robert because if he did, it wouldn’t be genuine.”
Deputy leader of the North Ayrshire Conservatives, Councilor Ferguson, is calling on Councilor Foster to apologize for his ‘campaign of harassment’ against Ms George.
Mr Foster has not issued an apology.
Councilor Foster responded: “It’s been widely reported by the press that Councilor George has done zero casework, held no advice surgeries, sent an average of one email per week and been paid £86,000 of public money for the privilege.
“These are facts established through Freedom of Information and it is the local press who have dubbed her “the laziest councilor in Scotland” as a result. Repeating these widely-reported facts in a political debate isn’t an attack.”
- Call Break The Silence on (01563) 559558 or visit www.breakthesilence.org.uk as they support survivors aged 13+ across East and North Ayrshire, partners and family members.
- You can also call the Rape Crisis helpline on 0808 802 9999 or Victim Support on 0333 300 6389.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.