Education and Transport tops the bill for Elgin by-election candidates

COME FRIDAY THIS WEEK the full shape of Moray Council will be known as Elgin City North will have gone to the polls 24 hours earlier to fill the gap left by the shock resignation of a councillor after just three days.

Four candidates have put themselves forward – only one of whom has experience in the council chamber.

Last week insideMORAY spoke to all four candidates for our new radio link-up, Wave Newsbeat with insideMORAY. Each was asked the same set of questions – and today we look at their responses to one, that given the financial pressures being faced by Moray Council, what is the single most important service they would wish to remain untouched.

The SNP’s Patsy Gowans elected not to address that question in isolation, but rather felt she should answer it in relation to the following-up question – was there a single issue where savings might be made.

She said: “Services are all linked and a balance is required were we put in place necessary resources to achieve council priorities and outcomes – but savings can be made in every department as has been evidenced over the last few years.”

For Labour’s candidate Nick Taylor education was his main issue – not surprising given that he has only recently retired as a lecturer at Moray College UHI. He said: “Given that I’m a professional educator my main areas of interest are largely education and in a wider sense training and opportunities for young people. I think we have a crisis emerging in education in Scotland, not just here in Moray, problems with education are not really being addressed at the moment.

“We have a particular problem in Moray with 39 teacher shortages – we just cannot recruit teachers. So what I would want to push is how we can make this better locally with what we can do.”

Independent Terry Monaghan has spent a great deal of his working life in the Army and much of that in Germany. He looked on Transportation in Europe with envious eyes, saying: “Never having been a councillor so looking from the outside the most important service I think to retain is the transport infrastructure, good planning and the general design and layout of the whole area.

“Bearing in mind in Europe that they build the roads first – in Britain we build the houses first and then suddenly start scratching their heads and thinking, oh, we need some roads. The transport infrastructure in Britain compared to the rest of Europe is a dog’s dinner.”

Finally for Conservative candidate Maria McLean, it was again education that would, if elected, be her main priority: “It is a difficult question – every service provided by the council is of huge importance for the people who are living here.

“But pressed to give an answer, I would have to say education. [We need] to make sure our school system is allowing young people to reach their potential – while ensuring that no child is left behind. This is a priority for many people across Moray.”

All four interviews can be heard in full by either listening or downloading the pilot edition of Wave Newsbeat with insideMORAY.