AFTER five years as part of the ruling administration of Scottish Borders Council, local Conservative councillors this week find themselves warming the opposition benches of the council chamber, despite snapping up more seats at the Newtown St Boswells-based local authority than anyone else, writes Mark Entwistle.
The Tories garnered 10 seats in the recent local authority elections - just one more than the SNP.
Bu, despite a week of fevered negotiations, they were unable to fashion a deal that allowed them to hold onto a share of power.
It means Scottish Borders Council will now be run by an Independent/SNP/ Lib Dem administration with David Parker, pictured above, asked to continue his nine-year stint as leader.
Lib Dem Graham Garvie succeeds Kelso Conservative Alasdair Hutton – who retired – as the council’s new convener.
Councillor John Mitchell of the SNP group will be deputy council leader with responsibility for finance.
The announcement of the new administration was confirmed on Friday and it is expected to publish a programme of government for the Borders this week.
Speaking on behalf of the Independent members, Michael Cook said: “We are pleased once again to be part of the administration of Scottish Borders Council and it is a mark of our success that David Parker is to lead the council for an historic third term. “
With Borders Party councillors Nicholas Watson and Sandy Aitchison, agreeing to side with the Independents, it brings that group’s total tally of seats to nine.
Leader of the SNP group on the council, John Mitchell, commented: “We are pleased to be part of the new administration that will run Scottish Borders Council for the next five years. The SNP group is committed to working hard with our administration partners for the good of the Scottish Borders. We look forward to the implementation of SNP policies including widening the democratic accountability of Scottish Borders Council.”
Speaking for the Lib Dems, deputy group leader Catriona Bhatia said: “Liberal Democrats made a significant contribution to the last council and will do so again as part of the new administration. What is important to us is ensuring that our policy programme is at the heart of the new administration’s thinking.”
Speaking about the Borders Railway, Sandy Aitchison and fellow Borders Party councillor Nicholas Watson - the party failed to get any other candidates elected - said both remained sceptical about the railway but recognised that the project is being delivered by the Scottish Government and was beyond the influence of the council.
“We want to play an important part in the governance of the Scottish Borders over the next five years and will be pleased to work as part of the Independent group within the new administration,” he said.
The new council administration will take office on Thursday, May 17, with the formal appointment of the convener, vice convener, leader and deputy Leader. Further appointments will be made at the council meeting on May 24.