New council coalition to be led by independents, SNP and Lib Dems

David Parker will lead the council for a third term
David Parker will lead the council for a third term

An new coalition involving independents, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party will form the new Scottish Borders Council administration after negotiators from both parties reached a deal following the election. David Parker will remain as council leader, and the Conservatives have been ousted from power after two Borders Party members opted to join the ruling group.

Councillor Parker, who has led the council for the past nine years, will continue in his role and Councillor Graham Garvie, Liberal Democrat, will be the new convener.

Councillor John Mitchell, of the SNP group, will be deputy council leader with responsibility for finance.

The announcement was confirmed on Friday May 11 and the new administration has pledged to publish a programme of government for the Borders next week.

The previous coalition was made up of an alliance of Conservatives, Lib Dems and independents. The Tories now find themselves on the outside looking in after Borders Party members Nicholas Watson and Sandy Aitchison decided to become independents instead and join the new ruling group.

Conservative group leader Jim Fullarton said: “We hope the new coalition will have the necessary cohesion to provide a stable administration for the Borders.

“We are disappointed not to be part of the new administration and saddened by the decisions of our former colleagues in the independent and Liberal groups.

“We have always put the best interests of the Borders above party politics, and will provide a constructive contribution to the administration as we go forward.”

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. I am also pleased that Nicholas Watson and Sandy Aitchison have agreed to become Independents and that nine Independents will now contribute to the work of the new administration.”

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish National Party Group, group leader John Mitchell added: “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 Liberal Democrats, 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.”

Councillor Sandy Aitchison, speaking about the Borders Railway, said: “Nicholas and I remain sceptical about the railway but recognise that the project is being delivered by the Scottish Government and is 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. Indeed, we are delighted that the administration has agreed a review of the Borders involvement in the city region.”

The new council administration will take office on Thursday May 17 with the appointment of the convener, vice convener, leader and deputy leader. Further appointments will be made at a council meeting on Thursday May 24.