A local women’s group seeking to hold an open debate with candidates in the Elgin City North by-election have been left stunned by the refusal of the Scottish Labour candidate to take part.
Born from the surge of community political empowerment that came from the independence referendum, Moray Women for Independence members are drawn from all political – and non-political – persuasions.
As was the case with many such groups formed during the recent national campaign, they have continued to meet to discuss politics and a wide range of issues.
At a recent meeting the group followed the suggestion of members in that they should continue with a focus on both local and national politics.
Spokeswoman for the group, Elidh Myrvang Brown, said: “I think it is fair to say that we have a number of traditional Labour voters in our number – Moray Women for Independence is a diverse and non-party affiliated political movement.
“That is why we felt it would be good for our members and the wider Elgin public to hear the views of candidates in the Elgin City North by-election, so we invited them to answer questions. We have clarified the parameters of this debate to candidates and made it clear that questions would be centred entirely on local issues of interest to the people of Elgin City North.”
Tory candidate Alex Griffiths and the SNP candidate Kirsty Reid immediately accepted the invitation, while a spokesman for the Moray Greens told insideMoray that their candidate, Morvern Forest, was away until Monday but “we would like to think that Morvern would be there”.
However, Moray Labour refused the invitation – with conflicting messages coming from their local party leader and the candidate himself.
Councillor John Divers said: “Craig will accept any invitation to take part in debates about how to improve the community. However, there are many impartial local groups capable of organising these hustings and Labour won’t be attending events organised by partisan political groups.
“We’re looking forward to a fair and open debate about who would be best for Elgin North – we are confident that Craig is the new voice the council needs.”
Craig Graham, however, appeared to dismiss thoughts of accepting any such invitations, saying he was too busy with work and his final year at University to do so.
He said: “I work in a shop to help me pay for my final year of university so even if the debate had been organised by an impartial group, I couldn’t have made that time anyway.
“I’m looking forward to meeting as many people as I can throughout this campaign to hear from them and talk about how to make Elgin an even better place to live.”
Last night The SNP confirmed that their candidate, Kirsty Reid, will be taking part and they were surprised that Labour are still failing to understand, despite all the evidence, that a significant number of their traditional supporters are also in favour of independence.
A spokesperson said: “Given Moray Women for Independence was an organisation representing women from all parties and none, and one that is entirely independent of the SNP or any other political party, then the only people being partisan would appear to be the Labour Party – especially since their Tory partners from the Better Together campaign are happy to participate!”
insideMoray was last night unable to contact representatives of the remaining two candidates, Ramsay Urquhart from the UK Independence Party and independent candidate Sandy Cooper.