Musselburgh Racecourse facing calls for new leadership

Musselburgh attracted 70,000 punters to events last year despite problems. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

Musselburgh attracted 70,000 punters to events last year despite problems. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

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FUTURE leadership of crisis-hit Musselburgh Racecourse has been thrown into doubt after the head of its ruling body was unseated in the local elections.

East Lothian councillor and chair of Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee, John Caldwell, lost his seat by just 36 votes.

Now co-runners of the course, Lothians Racing Syndicate (LRS) – which called for Mr Caldwell to step down ahead of the election – want showdown talks with the council.

Chair of LRS, John Prideaux, said: “We hope the decision taken by the electorate allows us to have more constructive dialogue with the council and to find a way forward in the best interests of the racecourse.

“We’ll be writing to the leaders of all three main parties on the council as a matter of urgency to get those hopefully constructive conversations under way.”

Not-for-profit entity 
Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC) runs the course – made up of four East Lothian councillors and three Lothians Racing Syndicate directors.

Former British Gas engineer Mr Caldwell, standing as an Independent, received 804 votes in the Musselburgh ward, beaten into fifth place.

Two of the other MJRC council members, Labour’s Margaret Libberton and John McNeil did not stand.

That means of the existing council representatives on the MJRC board, only Andy Forrest, also Labour, was re-elected.

No one party won a majority in East Lothian’s election, with an administration still to be decided.

The racecourse had been dogged by controversy in recent weeks with the LRS accusing council board members, led by Mr Caldwell, of voting through contested decisions on a 4-3 majority.

Sport governing body the British Horseracing Authority has only granted Musselburgh a temporary licence until next month.

And staff have threatened to strike on race days after passing two votes of no confidence in the leadership of the MJRC. The course also lost its 
Investors in People status, a nationally recognised standard, in 2014.

LRS directors want a shake-up of the board, with three members each from the syndicate and council and the remainder made up of independents.

An East Lothian Council spokesman said new MJRC board members will be decided at the full council meeting of May 23.

“There is no further information to provide at this stage,” added the spokesman. “Given that three previous members of the committee are no longer councillors clearly new members would be required.”

Efforts to contact John Caldwell yesterday were unsuccessful.