Two of Hawick’s current six councillors are standing down at next month’s Scottish Borders Council election, as reported in last week’s Hawick News, and this week they explain their reasons for calling it quits.
Ron Smith has spent the past decade representing the Hawick and Hermitage ward but he feels the time is now right to step aside to make way for a new face – or possibly an old one as independent Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer is looking to switch wards next time round.
Mr Smith, a Scottish Liberal Democrat, said he is now looking ahead to a politics-free future.
“I remember the day I was elected in May 2012 for the second time. I said then that I would not be standing again,” said the 72-year-old, also the council’s executive member for planning and environment for the past five years.
“I wanted to make it clear at that time that the decision was not going to be dependent on the up and downs of political life.”
Elected in May 2007 for the first time, Mr Smith soon took on the role of council vice-convener and soon found any hopes of easing into that role quietly being dashed after then convener Alasdair Hutton was put out of action after falling from of a roof.
Describing the time that followed as “something of a baptism of fire”, Mr Smith then found himself as acting convener for four months.
At the same time, he served as executive member for what was then children and strategic services before being named as executive member for planning and environment when re-elected in 2012.
After 30 years as head of geography at Hawick High School, including 13 of those as assistant headteacher, Mr Smith retired in 2002 and enjoyed a break of five years before joining the council.
“When I leave something, I tend to think of myself as yesterday’s man,” he said.
“Now that I am leaving the council, I really do not expect to remain involved in politics.”
Instead, he says, he will maintain as low a profile as is possible after 10 years in the public eye.
He serves as treasurer of Teviot Church and will also take up the post of secretary of Hawick Rotary Club this summer, as well as dedicating more time to gardening and genealogy and a shared interest in racehorses with his wife.
Mr Smith, of Fenwick Park in Hawick, added: “My time on the council has been hugely interesting, and after 10 years you look back and think how inexperienced you were as a councillor when you began, but over that 10 years, you pick up an education and learn the routes you take to get questions answered and problems solved.
“I find myself now thinking that I learned a lot and now I can get back to the normal life that has been put on hold for the last 10 years.
“I must say just how much I appreciate the support I have received from council officers, other councillors and members of the public over the last 10 years.”
Also choosing not to stand for re-election is Hawick and Denholm councillor Alastair Cranston.
The Scottish National Party member, a former Scotland rugby union international, was elected onto the council in 2012 after a career including a stint as manager of the Borders Machinery Ring agricultural co-operative from 1987 to 2002 and chief executive of the since-disbanded Border Reivers rugby team in Galashiels from 2002 to 2005.
The 67-year-old said: “I got involved because I felt there was an opportunity to repay something and the fact that I have had the pleasure of living in the same part of the world since primary school, and it’s a lovely part of the world.
“It’s great to give something back.”
Being involved with the annual Hawick Common Riding in an official capacity was a particular highlight for Mr Cranston, he said, and he commended the pride that all the Borders towns take in their festival, civic week and common riding traditions.
He said: “One of the other highlights has been working with the other parties in the council. There were no problems between different party members or the groups, only differences in voting.
“They were all there to work together, and I felt that was a very valuable contribution to the council.”
Mr Cranston, of Netherraw, Lilliesleaf, has vowed to remain involved with Burnfoot Community Hub and has other projects on his mind, he said.
“I intend concentrating my time on tourism and community benefit renewables” he said.
“There are not many industries that can come tot he Borders that can make a difference, and I think there is great potential there.
“Given our beautiful scenery and culture and with the contacts I have made, I think I can assist in this.”
He added: “My political group has been very helpful, and I will continue to be involved with that.
“I think my significant involvement with what the council does in the community has been very valuable to me.
“I think you learn how the system works. I admit mistakes. I was brought up before the authorities a couple of times, but that was down to my ignorance.”
Mr Cranston played as a centre for Scotland, earning 19 caps between 1976 and 1981.