In the 1950s, Longniddry’s county councillor was John Bruce (Conservative), a member of a prominent local farming and business family. He was followed by Ronnie Smith (Independent) the village postmaster. He in turn was followed in the late 1960s by George Pollock (SNP). In 1971, Mr Pollock was succeeded by Bob Cunningham (Labour). In those days, the Longniddry ward was styled ‘Gladsmuir North’. The county councillor also automatically had a seat on Prestonpans District Council.
Also representing Longniddry on this landward district council in the 1960s was Longniddry’s minister, the Rev R.I. Johnstone, followed in the early 1970s by Morris Lee. Mr Johnstone was also a member of East Lothian education committee. Some of his parishioners were not too happy that their minister should be ‘meddling in politics’.
The county councillor Mr Cunningham resigned from the Labour party after a disagreement over local party policy, and sat thereafter as an Independent. Around this time, Longniddry and Macmerry were put together to form ‘Gladsmuir’ ward. In the next election, Bob Cunningham was voted out, and Tommy Wilson took his place. Mr Wilson was a Macmerry man who had previously represented Macmerry as an SNP councillor, but subsequently changed his allegiance to the Labour party. It was probably the combination of Mr Wilson’s personal following in Macmerry, with committed Labour supporters in both communities, that ensured Bob Cunningham’s defeat.
In 1975, Scottish local government was reorganised. Longniddry was now represented by a regional councillor on Lothian Regional Council meeting in Edinburgh, and by a district councillor on East Lothian District Council meeting in Haddington. Tommy Wilson was succeeded on the district council by Cathy Gray (Labour), then Pat Burton (Conservative). The first regional councillor was Rev Colin Morton of Prestonpans (Labour), followed by Jimmie Nisbet (Labour).
Also in 1975, the old landward district councils were abolished and local communities were encouraged to form community councils. Bob Cunningham helped to set up Longniddry Community Council, and acted as its chairman for the next 20 years.
In 1996, local government was revamped yet again. The ‘regions’ and ‘districts’, with their confusing division of responsibilities, were abolished and replaced by ‘unitary authorities’. Haddington was once more the hub of local government and Longniddry was represented there first by Ian Stewart (Labour), and currently by Peter Ford (Conservative), a retired businessman newly resident in the village.
At the last local government election, the boundaries of several of the wards were redrawn. Longniddry now lost all connection with Gladsmuir and instead was lumped together with a substantial slice of the east end of Port Seton. The boundary changes had not been well publicised, and caused considerable confusion in Port Seton. Bewilderment was not confined to Port Seton, however. The farmer at Lochhill (postal address Longniddry, school catchment area Longniddry, ‘parish’ Aberlady) went down to vote in Aberlady as he had always done, only to be told that he was now required to vote in distant Athelstaneford! He didn’t bother.
Longniddry Community Council
issues a regular newsletter, and plays a useful role in bringing community issues to the attention of the village, and in lobbying higher authorities. Over the years it has been instrumental in such things as improving road markings, street signs, and street lighting; in having a switchbox and cables provided for Christmas lights, in getting a community constable provided, in dedicating a memorial in the village to the victims of the Ferny Ness disaster during the war, and in installing the Millennium window in the church.
Without doubt, however, the community council’s greatest achievement was in leading the successful fight against plans in the 1990s to build a ‘settlement’ or ‘new town’ stretching from Longniddry almost to Gladsmuir, which would have radically altered the character of the village and wrecked its rural setting.
Politics in the Parish
It might be assumed that prior to the expansion of Longniddry in the 1960s and 1970s, political allegiance would be a relatively simple matter, and it is probably true that most of the council house and Garden City tenants voted Labour and most of the owner-occupiers voted Conservative. It was not always as straightforward as that, however. Families descended from farm workers came from a background that had historically been Liberal-voting, and did not necessarily see the Labour party as the natural heirs of their loyalties. Also, voting Labour was seen in some quarters as an urban proletarian thing, and there were unquestionably many council tenants who saw themselves as rather more genteel than that. Apart from the obvious gulf between the humble tenants of John Knox Road, and the affluent owners of grand houses in Gosford Road, there were sometimes other more subtle social distinctions lurking beneath the surface.
The life of the village at that time, it was a bit snobby. Even the workers. Och aye, there was always that – when you worked in the fields you were down at the bottom.
Today the majority of Longniddry residents are owner-occupiers in middle-market homes with middle-ranking professional or managerial jobs. These people do not have the old class loyalties of the 1950s, which ensured that, in the main, ‘ordinary’ folk voted Labour, and ‘toffs’ voted Tory. These are precisely the sorts of people at whom Tony Blair has aimed his ‘Third Way’.
It is perhaps significant, all the same, that at the last council election, when the connection with ‘working-class’ Macmerry was severed, Longniddry voted out a Labour councillor, and voted in a Tory.
At national level, John P. Mackintosh was much respected as an MP in the 1960s and 1970s. He spoke at several political meetings in Longniddry, and once gave the ‘Immortal Memory’ at a British Legion Burns Supper. His successor, John Home Robertson, has probably not been so highly regarded. Mr Home Robertson recently resigned his Westminster seat to concentrate on his duties as a member of the Scottish parliament.
It is difficult to gauge the villagers’ attitude to and interest in Europe and European politics, or the devolved Scottish parliament. On average, interest in each case is probably not high, and the attitude marginally hostile. A branch of the Scottish National Party was recently formed in the village and appears to be flourishing. Support has not yet come near making their council candidate electable, however.