FIVE months after dropping the bombshell that he was looking to swap life as a councillor and leader of the Borders Party for one of clock-making and a long-held dream of sheep farming in Cumbria, Nicholas Watson has finally tendered his resignation as a councillor.
Scottish Borders Council confirmed earlier this week that it had received a letter of resignation from Mr Watson, who represents the Leaderdale and Melrose ward.
Mr Watson, a Borders Party member of the Independent group, has been an elected member since May 2007.
It was back in August that TheSouthern first revealed that he was looking to sell his home near Melrose and move to Cumbria with his family.
There had been speculation that the move could have taken place as early as last October, but it has taken time for all the necessary property transactions to be completed.
Speaking this week, Mr Watson told us it had been a great experience and honour being a councillor, especially meeting so many interesting people and with all the things going on in the Borders.
“It’s made me realise more than ever what a special place the Borders is, and how we’ve got to look after it, not just let it become another suburb of Edinburgh,” he said.
“I’ve no doubt that the Borders Party has made a significant difference already, not just by helping to improve planning policy, but also by making people think hard about what sort of place the Borders will be in 20 or 50 years’ time.
“Support from people of all political backgrounds who simply want to put the Borders first has been fantastic.
“We have some mixed feelings about leaving, as we’ve been really happy here, but are looking forward to our move and will be back in the Borders often.”
Council leader, Councillor David Parker, paid tribute to Mr Watson and his contribution to public life in the region: “Nicholas has worked tremendously hard for the local area over a number of years, and his contribution to SBC has been significant and welcome.
“I wish Nicholas and his family all the very best for the future in their new home.
“I know that he will be missed by my fellow elected members and we have all valued his contribution in the running of the council in recent years.”
SBC’s chief executive Tracey Logan says a report is expected to go before the special meeting of the council today (February 7) concerning the by-election triggered by Mr Watson’s resignation.
“At this meeting, elected members will agree the date of the necessary by-election,” she said.
Mr Watson and his party may have failed in May’s local council elections to return more than its two sitting councillors, but 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 has been serving as vice-chairman of the council’s planning committee, while Mr Aitchison chairs its education committee.
Mr Watson first threw his hat into the political ring when he led the Save Scott’s Countryside campaign against a new commuter settlement close to novelist Sir Walter Scott’s home at Abbotsford.
Speaking at the time of the founding of the Borders party, he said: “While fighting to stop that one development we were surprised to be contacted by people from across the Borders worried about closing schools, bins and even bus services.
“Looking back, it is clear they simply didn’t know where to find a voice. Now we hope to be able to give them that voice.”
The Borders Party will announce their candidate for the by-election for the Leaderdale and Melrose ward next week, with the ballot of voters likely to be held in April.