THE by-election for a seat on Moray Council, caused by the shock resignation of an SNP councillor, has been won by an Independent candidate in the six-way contest.
• Independent wins seat after SNP resignation prompts council by-election in Moray
• Seat vacated by Carolle Ralph after claims of “vicious, bullying and personal campaign of intimidation”
Carolle Ralph, a former social worker training officer, announced in December that she was standing down as an SNP councillor for the Heldon and Laich ward following a “vicious, bullying and personal campaign of intimidation” after her election victory in May last year.
Mrs Ralph had been elected as one of the four councillors representing the area in a vote which led to sitting SNP councillor Dave Stewart losing his place in the council chamber.
And it was revealed last month that Joan Stewart, 58, the wife of Mr Stewart, had been questioned by Grampian Police officers investigating anonymous letters and social media messages that led to Mrs Ralph leaving office.
Independent candidate John Cowe was today elected as the new councillor for the ward, beating SNP candidate Stuart Crowther by 502 votes at the fifth stage of the vote count.
His election strengthens the joint Conservative and Independent administration’s hold on the council. The coalition now has 14 seats on the local authority, There are nine SNP councillors and three Labour councillors in opposition.
The turn out at the by election was less than 30 per cent.
The other candidates were Pete Bloomfield (Scottish Conservative and Unionist), Jeff Hamilton (Independent), James MacKessack-Leitch (Scottish Green Party) and Nick Traynor (Independent).
Mr Cowe, who was born in Elgin, established Lossie Seafoods in Lossiemouth before moving the operation further along the Moray Firth coast to Buckie, where it has earned a reputation for exporting high quality shellfish and smoked salmon.
Speaking after the declaration, he said: “Lossiemouth and Moray has been very good to me all my life, and I hope to now give something back. I truly believe that there is no place for party politics in local government.
“I want what is best for the area not what’s best for a political party.”
He added: “Recently I took a step back from the business, so I have lots of time on my hands to take what I’ve learned and my experience in business to give back to the community.”
John Cowe was elected at the fifth stage of the Single Transferable Vote system.
The results at stage five were Stuart Crowther (SNP)1005, John Cowe (Ind)1507
Other candidates were eliminated as follows: Pete Bloomfield (Con) Stage - 4 558 votes; Nick Traynor (Ind) Stage 3 - 496 votes; James Mackessack-Leitch (Green) Stage 2 – 242 votes; Jeff Hamilton (Ind) Stage 1 – 175 votes.