FORMER council leader and long-standing North Berwick councillor David Berry will not be standing in May’s elections – after a devastating eye condition left him partially blind.

Mr Berry, who has represented his hometown ward since 1999, suffered a macular occlusion two years ago which left him with just five per cent sight in his left eye.

Despite this, he managed to continue serving as a councillor and kept the matter private.

However, in December, after returning from holiday in America, the councillor was told the condition had struck again – this time in his right eye.

East Lothian Courier:

Mr Berry, who is now unable to drive, said: “I have just 50 per cent vision in my right eye and scans have confirmed my condition will not improve – though the experts are hopeful that they can halt the deterioration and that it won’t get any worse.

“I cannot read anything but very large text; I cannot respond to emails or communicate as I normally have, which means my ability to look at council papers is affected.

“I regret that I will be unable to continue representing the people of North Berwick – as an independent councillor, I have enjoyed the freedom to speak my mind and ask questions.

“It is deeply frustrating that, at a time when I feel in my prime, this condition has forced me to make this difficult decision and withdraw from my role as councillor.”

Having now gone public on his condition, Mr Berry wanted to apologise to anyone in the community who may have felt he had ignored them in recent weeks.

“The reality is that I just have not been able to recognise people,” he said. “I also deeply regret that I also won’t be able to continue with the GoForth tours business I set up, which had a successful 2016 season. I’ll either have to find someone to hand it on to or it will simply have to cease trading.”

Macular occlusion, or retinal vein occlusion, occurs when tiny blood vessels on the retina become blocked or burst.

The condition tends to occur in people aged over 60 and can be caused by high blood pressure.

Mr Berry, 68, said the return of the condition in his other eye last month had been a shock because his health had never been better.

He said: “My blood pressure was at the lowest it had been and I felt very well and fit. I regret if it were not for my eyes I would be raring to go.

“I have a lot to do and say still. Not being able to do that is pretty frustrating for me.”

Mr Berry became council leader in 2007 when he was one of seven SNP councillors who formed a coalition with the Lib Dems to keep Labour out of office in East Lothian.

In the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, he came within 151 votes of ousting East Lothian MSP and then Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray. But he split from the SNP to become an independent councillor in 2013 after a row on Twitter.

On his decision to remain a serving councillor until the elections this May, Mr Berry said he did not believe stepping down immediately was the right thing to do for his ward.

He said: “I have announced my plan now to avoid any speculation and make clear how disappointing and frustrating it is for me – but if I stepped down immediately that would leave people with no representative.

“I have a great love for East Lothian, North Berwick in particular, but the county as a whole.

“East Lothian is a magnificent place, it is one of those gems. I think our council really does not understand the gem it has got.”