Party members have been out in force throughout the ward in recent weeks as they strive to return their candidate Joyce O’Hara at the poll on Thursday – in particular on Saturday when they held what they described as a ‘SNP Super Saturday’ event, flooding Lossiemouth with sympathisers.
Several complaints were made to Independent candidate Dennis Slater, however, that the SNP doorstep callers – who have been backed up by a telephone campaign orchestrated from the SNP’s Edinburgh HQ – were offering inaccurate information when told by voters that they intended going with an independent vote.
Mr Slater said: “I was in Lossiemouth myself with supporters on Saturday and we were constantly being told by supporters that the SNP are telling them a vote for myself would effectively be a vote for the Tory party.
“It is very disappointing that those representing other candidates should be coming out with statements such as this – it would seem they will do anything to secure victory.
“The truth is now as it has always been – I do not believe party politics has a place in our local council, I will not follow any party political line nor will I vote under instruction from any political group be that a party or a coalition of independent councillors.
“My position has always been to strive towards a new way for council representation – be a truly independent councillor who will vote according to what I believe is best for my own communities and those of the wider Moray communities.”
Last night a spokesman for the SNP in Moray said: “The SNP team are certainly aware from what we hear on the doorstep that many voters are very sceptical of claims by candidates to be independent given the track record of such candidates who then go on to join the Tories in coalition and vote as a block.”
Mr Slater insisted that he could not be held accountable for the actions of other Councillors in the past, pointing out: “I’m sure that all three of my opponents in this by-election will have read my literature and are well aware of my opposition to any sort of party political collusion.
“So for the SNP canvassers to be making such spurious statements is simply not acceptable even in the context of a political contest.”
The by-election holds a particular significance for the SNP group at Moray Council, where a victory would provide the numbers required to wrestle control of the local authority.
There are four candidates contesting the Heldon & Laich by-election on Thursday – Dennis Slater (independent), Joyce O’Hara (SNP), James MacKessack-Leitch (Greens) and Peter Bloomfield (Conservative).