THE four councillors who represent Galashiels & District on Scottish Borders Council are split on the issue of Scottish independence.

Two of the quartet – the SNP’s Bill Herd and John Mitchell – are unsurprisingly supporting a 'yes’ vote on September 18.

But it emerged this week that the other pair – Independent Bill White and Sandy Aitchison of the Borders Party – are backing the Better Together campaign.

Not only that, but the pair have aligned with five other elected members of the 10-strong Independent group on SBC to publicly state the case for a 'no’ vote in the referendum.

Their intervention comes in response to SBC leader David Parker’s revelation in these columns last month that he supported independence. This Friday, he will address a Yes campaign meeting in Tweedbank.

Although Mr Parker made it clear his views are “personally held”, his decision to come out rankled with most of his Independent group allies at SBC.

On Monday, seven of them – Michael Cook (East Berwickshire), Gordon Edgar (Selkirkshire), Ian Gillespie (Borders Party, Melrose and Leaderdale), Watson McAteer and Stuart Marshall (both Hawick & Denholm) along with Messrs Aitchison and White – issued a joint press release.

It is understood the other members of the group – David Paterson (Hawick & Hermitage) and Rory Stewart (Jedburgh % District) declined to endorse the statement.

Mr Aitchison, who chairs the group, said: “By their very nature, Independent councillors are free from party-political dogma and are totally committed to serving the best interests of the communities from which they come.

“For that reason, we feel compelled to speak out. Here in the Borders, we have the best of both worlds – Scotland within the UK.

“We enjoy close links, social and business ties and, frequently, family relationships with people in Northumberland and Cumbria, as well as further afield. Despite repeated emphasis by separatists on the differences, what’s remarkable is how similar we are.

“In Stow where I live, we have more in common with the folk of Belford [in Northumberland] than we do with the people of central Glasgow, and Eyemouth faces challenges that Whitby [in Yorkshire] would recognise while Edinburgh may not.

“We should cherish our links, not reject them. I want businesses on this side of the border to be able to trade freely with citizens and population centres on the other, without obstructions, tariffs and different tax regimes.

“I am anxious to see our young people take advantage of educational opportunities which best suit their talents, regardless of which side of the border they happen to live.

“And the beautiful scenery of our area is a shared asset which we should work together to promote and protect from crass policy decisions whether these come from Holyrood or Westminster.

“Why on earth would we want to put obstacles in the way of relationships vital to our interests and wellbeing? Do we really imagine that we share an identity and proprieties with citizens of EU states, but have incompatible differences with those from other parts of the UK? That is what the separatists seem to think.

“Without question, the Borders and Borderers will be infinitely worse off if we reject our friends, neighbours and relatives.” Mr Aitchison said Mr Parker’s support of the 'yes’ campaign had been “regrettable but unsurprising”, adding: “I profoundly disagree with him.” “On the issue of Scotland’s future, he does not speak as council leader and I’m sure he does not reflect majority opinion within the council chamber,” said Mr Aitchison.

Mr Parker said the rift between himself and most of his Independent colleagues on the issue of Scottish independence would not affect his role as council leader or as a member of the Independent group.

“As I stated in the Border Telegraph, my views on independence are personally held and, like ever citizen, I have the right to express an opinion.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that the majority of the 34-elected members of the council are against independence, but that does not make them right.

“As long as the debate is conducted with respect on both sides, I have no problems.” The Independent Group statement includes a contribution from Councillor Cook, who lives at Lamberton, just a mile from the English borders.

“No-one should be condemned for pointing out the huge flaws in the independence proposition,” said Mr Cook who is the group’s deputy leader.

“Telling someone not to cross a busy motorway with their eyes closed may be negative advice, but it might just save their life!

“Beyond the strategic questions of currency, fiscal policy and EU membership, for us in the Borders there are real anxieties about cutting ourselves off from those just a short distance away on the English side of the border.”