Youngest ever politician ‘retires’ to go backpacking at age of 23

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AT AN age when most teenage boys are sleeping or trying to impress girls, John West was elected Scotland’s youngest councillor. By the age of 18, he was deputy provost of Aberdeen and set for a life dedicated to politics.

But now Mr West, 23, is finally doing something more age- appropriate – he has quit the day job to go backpacking around the world.

The bagpipe-playing law undergraduate has announced that he will stand down from his council seat at the local elections in May.

Mr West, a Nationalist politician who now sports a beard and has emerged as one of the key members of the joint SNP and Lib Dem administration running Aberdeen City Council, said: “I simply want to do something else for a while, and I am going to do a bit of travelling, see the world and take in some new experiences.” He says Australia will be his first port of call.

“I am firmly of the view that you have to do these things when you are relatively young, or you will end up buying houses, getting married and having children and all of the other things that tend to preclude running away around the world for a time,” he said.

It had been a tough decision to make. “I certainly have regrets,” he admitted. “One of the regrets that I have is that if I had stood and been re-elected – of which there is never any guarantee – and been able to carry on in local politics, then obviously I would be involved in politics in Scotland over the course of the referendum and, hopefully, during the time when Scotland becomes an independent nation.

“That’s going to be a fantastically exciting time to be involved in Scottish politics. But, at the end of the day, you don’t need to be an elected councillor to be involved. I am sure as an ordinary citizen I will be able to play my part as well.”

Mr West said he would not miss the media attention he had attracted since being elected. “Some of the press spent a bit of time trying to catch me out,” he claimed.

“I think I’m a lot more boring than they had expected. I know for a fact that they sent people round various nightclubs and things on rumours that I was there, which always turned out to not be the case.”

In May 2007, Mr West was one of a four-strong band of young SNP members, including his sister, Kirsty, who swept into office at Aberdeen’s Town House.

He was elected unopposed as the deputy civic head to the city’s lord provost, and is now convener of the education committee.

On his council register of interests, he lists his additional earnings as working as a part-time political assistant to Kevin Stewart, the MSP for Aberdeen Central, and “self-employment – undertaking of paid bag- piping performances at private functions”.

Callum McCaig, 27, the council leader, said Mr West would be missed. “John has been a hugely important part of the SNP group in Aberdeen and his contribution has been hugely valued.

“I didn’t want John to go, but from his own point of view I can see why he is doing it, and I wish him all the best. “