IT is known as the Honest Toun, and today the people of Musselburgh must start asking for honesty from their local political leaders.

The debacle of the local racecourse losing its licence has severely damaged the reputation of a quite excellent track, and it is all down to the arrogance and intransigence of the Labour group of East Lothian Council.

The public will never know how close Musselburgh came to losing two vital summer meetings, and possibly closing down for months, but I can assure you that the British Horseracing Authority was a whisker away from calling the bluff of the council’s leader, Willie Innes, and pulling the plug on the track for some time to come.

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So why do Labour councillors want to keep control? Is it necessary? All that Innes and Co have to do is answer one simple question: What experience and knowledge of racing, what professionalism and managerial qualities in general, do they bring to the running of Musselburgh?

If they are being honest – that word again – the answer will be precious little, if anything it all.

Having worked in local government for 10 years and having covered council politics for nigh on 40 years, there is no way I would let a modern-day councillor be in charge of a tiddlywinks set, never mind a racecourse – and I say that as the son of a councillor. The good guys of years gone by – like former East Lothian Provost Pat O’Brien – were exemplary in their creed that only the best would do for Musselburgh and everything Pat and his colleagues, like Norman Murray and Tommy Ferguson, did was for the good of the racecourse.

Innes says he wants Musselburgh to prosper but, for some unfathomable reason, he thinks East Lothian councillors should retain control over it.

At least he is not like a previous chairman, who wanted me banned from the course, but Innes needs to realise that time has moved on and councillors’ jobs are to facilitate things, not manage them.

Musselburgh has had a reprieve, but its future must now be in a sensible direction. And, having damaged its reputation, Willie Innes should do the honourable thing and step aside from having anything to do with Musselburgh Racecourse.