THE SHOCKED FACE on new Conservative councillor for Buckie, Tim Eagle, perhaps summed up a remarkable day for his party in Moray.
Not in their own wildest dreams did the Moray Conservatives believe that they would be successful in all eight wards they contested – and more, they did so by grasping the largest first preference votes in every ward.
Councillor Eagle delivered one of the biggest shocks of the day, cruising into his council seat at the first stage. Second came Independent Gordon Cowie – while Sonya Warren returned for the SNP, but without her influential SNP Buckie member Gordon McDonald, who lost out in the vote.
The warning signs for the SNP came early, in the first vote of the day – that saw Speyside Glenlivet being taken by Walter Wilson for the Tories, with Independent Derek Ross and the SNP’s Louise Laing taking up the other two ward seats.
Keith and Cullen produced another shock for the SNP – while they did hold a seat there through Theresa Coull, Donald Gatt delivered the highest first preference votes to claim a place alongside returning independent, Ron Shepherd.
One of the largest winning margins went to the Conservative’s Marc Macrae, who claimed his place on the Council as a Fochabers Lhanbryde representative – here, however, there was at last some joy for the SNP as they claimed the other two seats through David Bremner and Shona Morrison.
Heldon & Laich provided one of the closest battles – there James Allan returned for the Conservatives in his native town, while John Cowe (independent) eased in at the second stage. It was the fifth round, however, before the SNP’s Amy Patience rallied enough votes to progress, while in the seventh Independent Ryan Edwards was chosen just ahead of Dennis Slater, who loses is place just 18 months after being elected.
The shocks continued in Elgin, when the Northern part of the city saw yet another Tory first past the post in the form of Frank Brown. Independent Sandy Cooper was victor in the second seat while the SNP’s Paula Coy came in ahead of party colleague Patsy Gowans.
In the southern half it was more straight forward, the SNP’s Graham Leadbitter and Conservative Ray McLean winning through at the first stage, while Labour’s only representative, John Divers, took his seat at the second stage.
A remarkable day for the Conservatives in Moray – and one that will surely give encouragement to Douglas Ross as he prepares to overturn Angus Robertson’s 9000+ majority for the Westminster seat when voting takes place in June.
Balance of the council is now: SNP – 9, Conservative – 8, Independent – 8, Labour – 1 – note, new Heldon & Laich Independent Councillor Ryan Edwards stated today that he will not join any Administration alliance group.