JIM Torrance, the councillor for Leaderdale and Melrose, has resigned from the SNP group on Scottish Borders Council.

The 65-year-old who lives in Tweedbank has confirmed he will see out the remaining 11 months of his tenure as an Independent backbench member of the ruling administration at Newtown.

He will not seek re-election to the local authority next May. 

He cited the stance taken by SNP MSP Christine Grahame over the controversial plans to house the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Tweedbank for his decision.

Mr Torrance, who was elected in 2011, said he had been a supporter of the SNP for the past 50 years but believed his position within the party’s power-sharing, nine-strong group was no longer tenable.

He was commenting after returning to his duties following an eight-week break through illness.

Mr Torrance, who suffers from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), told the Border Telegraph: “Let me make it clear I have absolutely no grouse with my fellow SNP councillors and it has been a pleasure to serve with them.

“However, during my recent absence I have had the chance to reflect on the lack of support our group has received from our local SNP MSP Christine Grahame in relation to the council’s decision, which we fully back, to bring a visitor centre for the Great Tapestry of Scotland to Tweedbank.”

That is a reference to a press release issued by Ms Grahame in February when she described the business case for the £6m facility near Tweedbank’s rail terminal as “flawed”.

She added: “To plough over £200,000 a year [the annual revenue repayment on the £3.5m in capital the council will borrow as its share of the project] of Council Tax payers’ money to pay for this building when belts are being tightened seems ridiculous and potentially risky.”

Ms Grahame also revealed that, as a result of her concerns and at her request, Scottish Government officials were inspecting the business case ahead of releasing the £2.5m balance required. 

That process of “due diligence” is still ongoing and councillors heard last week that work on the construction of the centre was now unlikely to begin before August, despite planning consent having been granted for the project last October.

“I passionately believe the SNP group was right to support the council in bringing this fantastic visitor attraction to the Borders and not just because Tweedbank is in my ward,” said Mr Torrance this week.

“It will be great thing for the Borders economy and will exploit the wider benefits of the Borders Railway.

“After Ms Grahame went public with her misgivings over Tweedbank, the official line from the SNP group of councillors was that we respected her position, but did not agree with her.

“Personally, however, I felt we had been let down and we now have a situation where this hugely important project, which should have gone out to procurement in January, has been delayed.

“I can tell you now that, as a result, I did not vote for Ms Grahame at the recent Scottish Parliamentary elections which is quite an admission for an SNP councillor so leaving the group after due consideration is a logical step.”

Mr Torrance said he had been “welcomed with open arms” into the Independent group at SBC which is led by council leader and fellow ward councillor David Parker.

The defection means the ruling administration at Newtown now has nine Independent, eight SNP and six Lib Dem councillors. The opposition comprises nine Conservatives and two non-aligned Independents.