BORDERS Party members across the region were faced with the shock news this week that their leader, Nicholas Watson, looks set to stand down and swap life as a councillor for that of a clockmaking sheep farmer in the north-west of England.
In an exclusive interview with TheSouthern, Mr Watson, who was instrumental in the launch of the Borders Party on an anti-railway ticket almost six years ago, said he 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 Melrose 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.
“We will miss the Borders hugely, but will return to visit often, and will be sure to get our weekly copy of TheSouthern.
“From having no notion of moving a couple of months ago, it now looks increasingly likely. As soon as we know for sure, I will tender my resignation as a councillor.”
Mr Watson also warned: “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.
“The prospects of independent local politics, focused on local issues, have been radically improved by the Borders Party, and it’s important this continues,” he said.
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 his reaction, SBC leader David Parker (Ind), who serves alongside Mr Watson as one of three councillors for the Leaderdale & Melrose ward, says he has a good working relationship with the Borders Party leader.
“I was a bit surprised when I heard the news, but it seems to be one of life’s opportunities presenting itself and it is understandable Nicholas wants to do what he feels is best for his family,” Mr Parker told us.
Mr Parker says he is confident both Mr Watson and Mr Aitchison would have been elected no matter which party they had represented.
“I think they were elected less because of the Borders Party and more because of who they are as individuals. Both are able councillors and Nicholas has contributed a lot to his local ward.”
Mr Watson also revealed that he has already made a prototype of a new clock mechanism, and the imminent move gives him the chance to finally take that to production.
And he added: “Sometimes in life opportunities present themselves unexpectedly. That is exactly what has happened for my family recently, and we felt we had to grasp it.
“Obviously we will miss the Borders very much. I’ve enjoyed serving as a councillor enormously, and would like to thank the great people of Leaderdale & Melrose who elected me twice.”