By-Election campaign already fierce as council power balance shifts

Moray Council - balance of power shifting
Moray Council – balance of power shifting

LESS THAN 24 HOURS after the resignation of independent councillor Eric McGillivray swords are being drawn over the future power balance at Moray Council.

Amid accusations that they have “no appetite” for making decisions, the SNP group are remaining tight lipped over the very real possibility that they could be in a position to seize control.

Another by-election victory at Heldon & Laich would be the SNP’s third in a row since taking seats from Labour and the Independents in Elgin and Buckie by-elections – and put them in the position of having 12 councillors in place – three more than the nine Independent councillors who now hold control.

Even with the help of two Tory councillors Allan Wright and James Allan the administration would, should the SNP regain a seat at Heldon & Laich, be left in a highly difficult situation.

However, last night Fochabers/Lhanbryde Tory councillor Douglas Ross – who was sensationally sacked from the administration last year – doubted if the SNP really wanted control.

He said: “There are many possible outcomes but the most interesting by-election result would be an SNP victory. That is far from a forgone conclusion given Heldon & Laich is the only ward that they have no representation on in Moray.

“But if they were to win they would, I think, be forced to form an administration as they would be the largest party. That said, all the signs indicate that the SNP group has no appetite for making the difficult decisions required of a ruling administration.”

Councillor Ross insisted that the failure of the SNP group to take on responsibilities as the largest single party may play against them at the Heldon & Laich by-election, a date for which is yet to be announced.

He said: “People will question why the SNP in Moray Council constantly criticise the administration – and yet fail to put forward alternatives and then walk away from an opportunity to lead the authority.”

The SNP group were remaining quiet on the immediate future last night – but issued statements praising the outgoing Councillor McGillivray.

Group Leader Councillor Pearl Paul, said: “I have worked with Eric in the Council for a good number of years and he has provided an excellent service to his constituents in that time.

“The interests if his community have been to the fore. It will be sad to see him go but I wish him ask the best for the future.”

Moray MP Angus Robertson added: “As Moray’s MP I have crossed paths with Eric on a variety of issues over the years and I am sorry to see him go. He has been very active in the community for many years and has contributed a great deal.”

Richard Lochhead MSP also praised the work of a “well-loved” councillors, saying: “Eric built a reputation as a man who cares deeply about his community. He has given many years of service to public life through good times, and often challenging times, and I wish him well in the next chapter of his life.”