“Disappointed, to say the least” was the understated reaction of Alec Nicol, leader of a Lib Dem group reduced from 10 councillors to six at last week’s polls.
Mr Nicol, who comfortably retained his seat in Kelso and District, was in no doubt about the reasons for the slump.
“This follows a fairly similar trend to what we have seen in England and Wales and I believe the biggest single factor was dissatisfaction with the coalition between the Conservatives and Lib Dems at Westminster.”
Mr Nicol, who has been leading the negotiations on behalf of his diminished retinue this week, added: “Manifestos will have to be examined to see if there is any agreement that will allow SBC’s important joint work programme to move forward.”
One Lib Dem casualty was John Paton-Day, whose place in Leaderdale and Melrose went to the SNP’s Jim Torrance. “We were hearing it on the doorstep about Clegg and Cameron and how we had sold out and, despite my best efforts to say that this was a local election about local issues, we took another kicking as a result of national politics,” said Mr Paton Day.
Fielding a raft of new candidates, the Lib Dems had expected to hold on in Galashiels and District and in Hawick and Denholm where retiring councillors Jim Hume and Jock Houston had ruled the roost. But their aspiring replacements – Rick Kenney and retired senior police officer Watson McAteer – failed to cut the mustard.
Even down the coast in East Berwickshire, the party drew a blank in the ward vacated by Lib Dem David Raw, with, for the first time, an SNP candidate – Joan Campbell – sharing the spoils with the independent Michael Cook and the Tories’ new group leader, Jim Fullarton.
The most emphatic victor for the Lib Dems was Catriona Bhatia who sailed home at stage one of the Tweeddale West count.
She toId us: “I think matters at Westminster played a part, but this was also about local issues and, whatever happens with the composition of the new administration it cannot be the status quo and lessons must be learned.
“We had some excellent, fresh candidates who failed to get elected and the Borders is the real loser. However, the main concern after this election is the low turnout which means no-one can claim a majority mandate. It is symptomatic of public disillusionment with all politicians, even the Borders Party, and it is one which we all must address.”