THE APPARENT INEXORABLE rise of the SNP in by-election successes came to a shuddering halt in Moray today when their ambitions of controlling Moray Council suffered a serious blow.
Independent candidate Dennis Slater emerged top of the poll by a considerable margin having convinced the voters that it was time for a change of direction in local politics.
Chair of the Hopeman Community Association and a former Fishing Skipper, Mr Slater came through the final count having polled 1775 votes – 675 more than SNP candidate Joyce O’Hara.
Speaking immediately after the result Dennis said: “I have to thank the people of Heldon and Laich for their overwhelming support, I feel very, very humbled by this result today.
“What is clear is that my dream of our local council having community representation rather than party politics is the same for many people in this part of Moray and, I believe, throughout our region.
“Now comes the job of serving my communities in the council chamber – it will not be easy, I know that, but it is a task I always thought was worth doing.”
In a tense count Mr Slater emerged from the first round with 1323 first preference votes, with Mrs O’Hara on 1003 and Scottish Conservative candidate Pete Bloomfield on 703. Scottish Greens candidate James MacKessack-Leitch was eliminated with 192 votes.
There was little difference in the second count, Mr Slater’s vote rising to 1382 against 1054 for the SNP and 725 for Mr Bloomfield.
When the Conservative vote’s alternative preferences were taken into account, the Independent candidate crossed the finish line in emphatic fashion.