POLITICAL colleagues today united in condemning the “cowardly and appalling” hate campaign against a female Scottish councillor which has forced her to quit after only six months in office.
• Carolle Ralph was elected as one of four councillors representing Lossiemouth’s Heldon and Laich ward on Moray Council
• SNP spokesperson in Moray said Councillor Ralph was stepping down as a result of an “anonymous hate-mail campaign”
• Police are investigating the letter sent to Carolle Ralph.
Carolle Ralph, a former council social worker training officer, has announced that she is standing down as an SNP councillor in Moray following a “vicious, bullying and personal campaign of intimidation” after her election victory in May.
Six months ago she was elected as one of the four councillors representing Lossiemouth’s Heldon and Laich ward on Moray Council in a vote which led to sitting SNP councillor Dave Stewart losing his place in the council chamber as a result of the SNP’s decision to field two Party candidates in each Moray ward.
Both Councillor Ralph and Mr Stewart had played prominent roles in the successful campaign to retain RAF Lossiemouth as a frontline air base.
A spokesman for the SNP in Moray said Councillor Ralph was stepping down as a result of an “anonymous hate-mail campaign” which started after her election on 3 May 2012.
He continued: “The police are investigating the letters which are described as part of a ‘vicious, bullying and personal campaign of intimidation’ and an appeal has gone out for any information that could help the police with their inquiries.”
Ms Ralph said in a statement: “There comes a point where enough is enough. I stood for the council to work for the community not to become a target for vicious bullying and a personal campaign of intimidation. My family life has been put under an unacceptable amount of stress as a direct result of this stalking and I am not prepared to carry on in these circumstances.
“This is not a decision I have come to lightly, it is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, especially given my commitment to this community which I love and which all my life has always been so important to me.”
Councillor Stewart Cree, the convener of the council and a former senior officer with Grampian Police, led the condemnation of the hate campaign against his fellow councillor.
He declared: “As a councillor you have to stick your head above the parapet on number of occasions. Fair and open criticism is acceptable but this sort of sinister underground campaign is entirely inappropriate.”
Mr Cree continued: “It’s dreadfully disappointing and I was really shocked when he heard this news. Carolle Ralph was beginning to make a real contribution to the council. She has a lot of experience in the field of social work and I was most impressed with the way in which she was conducting herself.”
Councillor Alan Wright, the Conservative leader of the coalition administration, said: “Nobody should be subjected to an orchestrated campaign like this.”
He said:”I understand that some of it has been on the social media but there have also been hard copy letters involved as well. I understand it has been personal rather than political. From councillors of all parties there is sadness that a newly elected member has felt the need to resign.”
Councillor Pearl Paul, the leader of the SNP Group, declared: “Nobody should have to put up with the treatment Carolle Ralph has endured. She is a well respected colleague who has bravely soldiered on for months working hard for people throughout the ward whilst being targeted in this stalking campaign. People in Lossiemouth will be shocked by this cowardly treatment and I hope information will be provided to the police so those responsible can be brought to justice. In a democracy it is totally unacceptable to literally hound somebody from elected office.”
Councillor John Divers, the Labour Group, said: “There are obvious concerns about the reasons why she has had to resign. I have known Carolle for many years and, although she is from a different party to myself, I feel in the last six months she has done a good job representing her constituents and the people of Moray. It is a shame that it has come to this and that the pressure which has been put on her has forced her to resign.”
Moray’s two Parliamentarians also spoke out. Moray MP Angus Robertson said: “It is crucial that the police receive all potential evidence to apprehend whoever has behind this appalling campaign. If anybody knows anything please can they contact the police. This bullying and stalking must be stopped. I wish Carolle and her family all the best at this difficult time.”
And Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: ”Carolle has been a conscientious councillor for the whole of the Heldon and Laich ward and it is contemptible that she has been the target of this stalking campaign. I would like to pay tribute to her and her family who have been going through sheer hell.”
A Grampian Police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that we have received a complaint and that we are making inquiries.”