Case continues against ex-Highlands councillor

A CRIMINAL case is being continued against a former councillor – the youngest ever to be elected in the Highlands – who is accused of forming a fraudulent scheme in a bid to win victory.
Alexander Murray-MacLeod was 19 when he was elected. Picture: TwitterAlexander Murray-MacLeod was 19 when he was elected. Picture: Twitter
Alexander Murray-MacLeod was 19 when he was elected. Picture: Twitter

Alexander Lindsay Murray-MacLeod, who is now 21 but was 19 when elected, faces allegations which include fiddling expenses during the campaign for the Landward Caithness seat on Highland council.

The former councillor, who resigned two months ago, was not present, but his lawyer sought a continuation without plea and a new date of 5 December was set.

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In a statement issued by Mr MacLeod, he said: “Today I have asked my solicitor to appear on my behalf at the Sheriff Court in Inverness, who will seek a continuation of this case while my team works with the Crown.

“I have asked my legal team to work as closely and cooperatively as possible with all the relevant authorities, as we seek to reach an eventual outcome.

“In the meantime, it is right that the people of Caithness are able to get involved in a by-election, so that they can move on from this matter. Following legal advice, I cannot offer any further comment at this time.”

MacLeod, a former employee of First Minister Alex Salmond, is accused of forming a fraudulent scheme to be elected as a councillor for Landward Caithness in the Highland Council election last year, and the charge sets out a series of allegation in his pursuance of the scheme, between 15 March and 8 June last year.

It states he allegedly incurred election expenses in excess of the permitted amount - £1226.04 – and he knowingly declared false election expenses to officials of the Highland Council.

He is further alleged to have altered invoices from Caithness Print Solutions and the John O’Groat Journal so that they failed to show the true extent of the cost of the services provided by them.

MacLeod, it is alleged, also knowingly declared a false home residence in his nomination paper.

The charge alleges: “All of this you did in the pursuance of election as a councillor for Landward Caithness, and did thereby induce officials of Highland Council to submit your application as an electoral candidate for Highland Council election, whereby you were subsequently elected as a councillor for Landward Caithness in a Highland Council election by fraud.”

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When MacLeod resigned he said he had to be “honest about any mistakes that I have made”, adding: “I got into this situation when I was very young, with all the arrogance and hot-headedness that that entails.

“I feel a redoubtable sense of sorrow and regret for the events which have unfolded. I understand that this news will hurt a great many of my friends, colleagues, and supporters. I am truly,very genuinely sorry about that.

“My biggest apology is to the people who voted for me. It is right that they now have the opportunity to elect a new councillor in a by-election.”

MacLeod was the Highlands’ youngest councillor, having been elected as a 19-year-old. He was the youngest to in Scotland to be elected.

He stood down as an SNP Party member when the allegations arose.

He was Gaelic spokesman for the SNP-led administration, but has resigned from the controlling group on the local authority while there are legal proceedings against him.

A police probe was launched when a complaint was made to the force by an unnamed individual about his conduct during the election campaign.

MacLeod was born and raised in Tain, Ross-shire, and was taught through Gaelic at Tain Royal Academy. He left school early and worked for 10 months for First Minister Alex Salmond.

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He subsequently studied Law at Edinburgh University and was also very active in the Young Scots for Independence organisation, rising to the position of National Secretary.

In 2010 he was appointed a Parliamentary Assistant to the SNP MSP Rob Gibson and and was his Campaign Manager in the 2011 election when Gibson captured the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross seat from the Lib-Dems.

He has enjoyed a high profile on the authority since his election victory, declaring the council would “not know what hit it” once he started work.

The councillor was a vocal supporter for the lifting of the ban on same-sex marriage, saying: “I look forward to making full use of this new law – maybe a wee bit later in life.”

Spending limits are imposed on election candidates so that wealthy individuals cannot lavish huge amounts of cash on winning by splashing out on heavy advertising or sponsorship.

A conviction under the Representation of People Act 1983 can carry a maximum six-month prison term.