The bulk of the Independent group members on Scottish Borders Council have pledged themselves to support the Better Together campaign.
Group leader Sandy Aitchison and fellow members, Gordon Edgar, Iain Gillespie, Stuart Marshall, Watson McAteer, Bill White and Michael Cook have all thrown their weight behind the campaign for a ‘No’ vote in September’s independence referendum.
Councillors Aitchison and Gillespie are Borders Party members aligned with the Independents.
Independent and SBC leader David Parker declared his support in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote for independence earlier this year and Independent colleague David Paterson also supports a ‘Yes’ vote.
It means Jedburgh councillor Rory Stewart is the only member of the Independent group still to declare his voting intention.
Mr Aitchison said by their very nature, independent councillors were free from party political dogma, leaving them to focus totally on serving the local communities which they represent.
“For that reason, we feel compelled to speak out. Here in the Borders we have the best of both worlds: Scotland within the UK,” he said.
“We enjoy close links, social and business ties and, frequently, family relationships, with people in Northumberland and Cumbria, as well as further afield.
“Despite repeated emphasis by separatists on the differences, what’s remarkable is how similar we are.
“I want businesses on this side of the Border to be able to trade freely with citizens and population centres on the other, without obstructions, tariffs or different tax regimes.
“I am anxious to see our young people able to take advantage of educational opportunities which best suit their talents, regardless of which side of the border they happen to live.”
Mr Aitchison described Mr Parker’s support for a ‘Yes’ vote as “regrettable but unsurprising” since the latter had started his political life with the SNP.
But Mr Aitchison added: “I profoundly disagree with him. On the issue of Scotland’s future, he does not speak as council leader and I’m sure he does not reflect the majority opinion within the council chamber.
“Without question, Scotland – especially the Borders and Borderers – will be infinitely worse off if we reject our friends, neighbours and relatives.”
Councillor Michael Cook, depute leader of the group, said no-one should be condemned for pointing out the huge flaws in the independence proposition.
“Beyond the strategic questions of currency, fiscal policy and EU membership, for us in the Borders there are real anxieties about cutting ourselves off from those just a short distance away on the English side of the Border,” he told us.
“We can’t ignore the fact that the Borders will be impacted by the change in relationships which are currently an uncontentious aspect of living in this region.
“Every Borderer owes it to themselves and their fellow Borderers to reject the Nationalist exercise in self-deception and say ‘No’ in September.”
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