BORDERS Party members in the Royal Burgh are having to get used to the idea of having a new leader after Nicholas Watson revealed he is set to stand down after what he calls ‘the chance of a lifetime’.
Mr Watson, who was instrumental in the launch of the Borders Party on an anti-railway ticket almost six years ago, always intended serving only two terms as a councillor before returning to his profession of clockmaking and a long-held dream of farming sheep.
And while his party failed in May’s local council elections to return more than its two sitting councillors, he and his fellow Borders Party councillor, Sandy Aitchison, were invited to join the ruling coalition now running the local authority for the next five years.
Mr Watson, who lives near Selkirk with his wife, Delphine, and children, says his departure comes sooner than intended, but is the result of an opportunity he cannot afford to turn down.
“At the end of June a completely unexpected opportunity came up – the chance for me to take up clocks again in a new business partnership, and for Delphine and me to farm sheep.
“Unfortunately, it means leaving the Borders – not far, to Cumbria – and it could happen soon, at the end of October.
“The timing is not ideal, just as the new council is getting going, but an opportunity like this for my family may not come up again. As soon as we know for sure, I will tender my resignation as a councillor.”
Mr Watson added: “However, in the unlikely event of our plans falling through, you will have to continue to put up with Councillor Watson for a while yet.”
But he says if the move does go ahead as planned, he will leave the Borders Party, set up in the wake of his Save Scott’s Countryside campaign which successfully halted housing plans near Abbotsford, in good hands.
Next week, the Borders Party will announce a new candidate to fight any by-election for the Leaderdale & Melrose ward.
“It is now time to pass on the baton to a new generation who will take the Borders Party forward,” added Mr Watson.
Asked for her reaction to the news, Selkirkshire councillor Michelle Ballantyne (Con) told The Wee Paper: “Councillor Watson has always tried to do his best for the Borders and this should be recognised.”
However, Mrs Ballantyne could not resist a slight dig at the Borders Party, adding: “There is little difference between the ideals of the Border Conservative Group and the Borders Party, so voters can be confident that their views will continue to be represented.”