JR Scott heralds return to politics with the SNP

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A former Lib Dem leader of Scottish Borders Council says he intends leaving the party he has supported for four decades and joining the SNP.

And John Ross Scott, also an ex-journalist with The Southern, has not ruled out a return to frontline politics after an 11-year break.

Now in his seventh year as chairman of NHS Orkney, Mr Scott was back in the region at the weekend visiting friends and family in his native Hawick and Innerleithen.

On Friday, he attended the Scottish Magazine of the Year Award ceremony in Glasgow, picking up an award for Living Orkney, the coffee table monthly magazine he has edited since 2009.

Earlier this year, Mr Scott found himself at odds with his party this when he chose to publicly endorse the Yes campaign in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum.

In his role as Orkney’s two-day-a-week non-executive health board chairman, he praised the Scottish Government’s track record and claimed only independence would stop the NHS in Scotland being “sucked into the creeping privatisation agenda south of the border”.

It appears that departure from the Lib Dem policy was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the 63-year-old’s relationship with the party.

“I will be leaving the Lib Dems and joining the SNP,” Mr Scott told The Southern.

“I have a year to go of my stint with NHS Orkney and I am gradually winding down my involvement with the magazine with a co-editor coming on board in the new year.”

Asked if he would consider putting himself forward as a candidate in forthcoming elections – for Westminster in May and for Holyrood in 2016 – Mr Scott was non-committal.

“At this point, let’s just say I’m not ruling anything out, but I can say that my passion for politics as a means of improving the lives of people in Scotland is undiminished and, with more time on my hands, I am reviewing the various options.”

Mr Scott, who began his journalistic career with the Hawick News in 1977, was chief reporter with The Southern until January 2002, when he was appointed leader of SBC in the wake of the infamous £3.9million education budget overspend.

Sixteen months later, he lost his Hawick Silverbuthall seat before leaving the region for Orkney, where he took over as editor of a local newspaper.

He had served his native town as a councillor for 23 years, including a term as provost, and, in his role as chairman of the South East Scotland Transport Partnership and as Scottish Lib Dem transport spokesman from 1998-1999, he was a staunch and vocal supporter of the reinstatement of the Borders railway.

His previous attempts to break into national politics have been marked by disappointment.

In 1997, he failed to win his party’s nomination to fight the seat vacated by Sir David Steel.In 2007, he was shortlisted to be the Lib Dem candidate for Orkney in the Scottish Parliamentary elections, but lost out to current incumbent Liam McArthur.