Michelle Ballantyne

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Michelle Ballantyne

Michelle Ballantyne.png
Ballantyne in 2020
Leader of Reform UK Scotland
Assumed office
11 January 2021
LeaderNigel Farage
Preceded byPosition established
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Social Security
In office
3 May 2018 – 14 February 2020
LeaderRuth Davidson
Jackson Carlaw (Acting)
Preceded byAdam Tomkins
Succeeded byGraham Simpson
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for South Scotland
(1 of 7 Regional MSPs)
Assumed office
23 May 2017
Preceded byRachael Hamilton
Personal details
Born (1962-11-28) 28 November 1962 (age 58)
Ashton-under-Lyne, England
Political partyReform UK (2021–present)
Other political
Independent (2020–2021)
Conservative (until 2020)
Alma materRoyal London Hospital; Heriot Watt University

Michelle Lorraine Ballantyne (née Cross; born 28 November 1962) is a British politician who has served as Leader of Reform UK Scotland since 2021. She has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the South Scotland region since 2017. Elected on the Scottish Conservative Party regional list, she was a candidate in its February 2020 leadership election but lost to Jackson Carlaw. She resigned from the Scottish Conservatives in November 2020, citing differences with its positioning and policy.

Early life and career[edit]

Ballantyne was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester. She studied nursing at The London Hospital in East London, beginning her career working as a staff nurse in an Intensive Care Unit before progressing into a finance and management position at South West Thames Regional Health Authority.[1]

Ballantyne moved to the Scottish Borders in 1990 to established a manufacturing business with her husband in Walkerburn. During this period, she continued to work as a nurse within social care, while also completing an Honours degree as a mature student at Heriot Watt University in Galashiels. After graduation, she returned to Health Service Management in 2000, managing an Acute Medicine department in Edinburgh.[1]

Ballantyne and her husband sold their house and became tenants to enable Michelle to work closer to home. Ballantyne took a position in 2005 as head of an independent local charity providing specialist drug and alcohol support to children, families and offenders.[1]

Political career[edit]

Official parliamentary portrait, 2017

Ballantyne was first elected to the Scottish Borders Council as representative for Selkirkshire in 2012, and then led the Conservative group at the 2017 Scottish Local Elections. The Conservatives gained 5 seats and subsequently partnered with the Independent group to take control of the council from the incumbent SNP, Liberal Democrat and Independent alliance.[2] Following the election, Ballantyne was invited to join the Scottish Parliament and sworn in as an MSP on 23 May 2017[3] to replaced Rachael Hamilton, who had resigned her seat to contest the 2017 Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire by-election on 8 June.[4] Shortly after she joined the Scottish Parliament, Ballantyne was appointed to the Scottish Conservative frontbench as Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Years.

On 3 May 2018, Ballantyne was promoted by Ruth Davidson to the role of Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Social Security. During a meeting of the Social Security Committee, she claimed that "there’s no such thing as a bedroom tax", disagreeing that restrictions to benefits are equivalent to the payment of tax.[5] She later sparked heated debate in 2018 after claiming that "people on benefit cannot have as many children as they like while people who work and pay their way and don't claim benefits have to make decisions about the number of children they can have."[6] when defending the UK Government's two child cap. She later refused to apologise for her remarks, and accused critics of having an "emotional reaction".[7] During an interview Ballantyne accused the SNP of politicising the two child cap and suggested that there was no hard evidence as to why the use of foodbanks has increased.[8]

Criticising the SNP's record on healthcare within a speech in the Scottish Parliament, Ballantyne said she would be "quite happy" if the Scottish Government had no role in running the National Health Service in Scotland.[9]

Ballantyne was a candidate in the first Scottish Conservative Party leadership election of 2020.[10] During the campaign, her stance on the two-child limit was brought up but she reiterated her views and defended them.[11] She eventually lost the leadership election to Jackson Carlaw.[12] She was dropped from the Conservative frontbench team by Carlaw in a reshuffle shortly after the election.[13] On 18 February, Carlaw told ITV's 'Representing Borders' that Ballantyne would be moved to an as yet unspecified position.[14]

On 24 November 2020, Ballantyne announced she would leave the Scottish Conservatives to sit as an independent MSP, citing differences on policies and principles with the party and its new leader Douglas Ross, especially with regards to the party's support for coronavirus lockdown measures; she said that she and the party were no longer "a good fit".[15]

Ballantyne joined Reform UK in January 2021 and was appointed as Leader of Reform UK Scotland.[16]

Personal life[edit]

The eldest of four siblings, Ballantyne has been married to her husband Neil since December 1983 and together they have 6 children. Neil is a former officer in the King's Own Scottish Borderers.[1] She is managing trustee of The Haining,[17] a patron of a food bank in Penicuik[18] and a council member of Friends at the End.[19]

Starting in 2000, Ballantyne was an adult volunteer in the Air Training Corps and she received a commission as a pilot officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch).[20] Two years later, she was promoted to flying officer.[21] Ballantyne resigned her commission in June 2003.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d "About Michelle Ballantyne". Michelle Ballantyne.
  2. ^ "Conservatives and independents to run Scottish Borders Council". 9 May 2017 – via www.bbc.com.
  3. ^ "New Conservative MSP sworn in at Holyrood". BBC News. BBC. 23 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  4. ^ "MSP Rachael Hamilton quits to fight Holyrood by-election". BBC News. BBC. 3 May 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Views on the Bedroom Tax". Welfare Weekly. 21 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Size of benefit claimant families questioned" – via www.bbc.com.
  7. ^ "Tory MSP: poor people should stop having children". Third Force News. 25 October 2018.
  8. ^ "New Tory welfare spokesperson accuses SNP of politicising 'rape clause'". ITV. 9 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Tory MSP: Government should not be running NHS in Scotland". The Scotsman. 3 April 2019.
  10. ^ "Tory leadership hopeful Michelle Ballantyne defends benefits stance". BBC News. BBC. 8 January 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Tory leadership hopeful Michelle Ballantyne defends benefits stance". BBC News. BBC. 8 January 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  12. ^ "Scottish Conservatives: Jackson Carlaw succeeds Ruth Davidson as leader". BBC News. 14 February 2020. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  13. ^ Woods, Emily (18 February 2020). "Jackson Carlaw removes rival Michelle Ballantyne from shadow cabinet". Holyrood Magazine. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  14. ^ Representing Border [@ITVBorderRB] (18 February 2020). ".@Jackson_Carlaw says his new shadow cabinet will 'take the fight to the SNP' and make a 'fresh case' for the Union. The @ScotTories leader tells us the party has a 'genuine chance' of winning the 2021 Holyrood election" (Tweet). Retrieved 15 January 2021 – via Twitter.
  15. ^ "MSP Michelle Ballantyne quits Scottish Tories". BBC News. 24 November 2020. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  16. ^ Reform UK Expansion Announcement, retrieved 11 January 2021
  17. ^ "Councillor recruited to take plans forward". www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk.
  18. ^ "Foodbank responds to Grassy Riggs' concerns". 15 March 2019.
  19. ^ "Friends at the End - Assisted Dying Support Scotland".
  20. ^ "No. 55928". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 August 2000. p. 8455.
  21. ^ "No. 56673". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 August 2002. p. 10299.
  22. ^ "No. 57019". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 November 2003. p. 13887.