The Moray Council: Results and Analysis

Unsurprisingly, The Moray Council has not been the focus of discussion in the press or blogosphere following last week’s local elections. Nonetheless, someone ought to do it  – and as I’m bound to be in contention for the title of “biggest geek in Moray” I thought I might as well. Below are the results and some thoughts on Moray’s 8 wards.

*Be warned: this post may be a little more partisan than usual.

Speyside Glenlivet

Party Candidate % 1st Pref Count 1
UKIP Matthew Desmond 5.73% 160
Conservative David Gambles 13.46% 376
UKIP Don Gatt 3.19% 89
SNP Mike McConnachie (incumbent) 22.87% 639 *
Independent Fiona Murdoch (incumbent) 27.59% 771  *
SNP Pearl Paul (incumbent) 27.17% 759  *

The largest ward in Moray, which covers an area which extends from Southwards from Rothes beyond Aviemore. Rothes, Dufftown, Aberlour and Craigellichie are the main settlements, with a sprwaling population. Perhaps the only remarkable thing about Speyside Glenlivet ward is that, so confident was UKIP, they fielded not one but two candidates! In the event all three incumbents, to the surprise of few, were easily re-elected. Pearl Paul leads the SNP group on Moray Council, and though both of their councillors were re-elected in the first round the SNP saw a slight decline in their vote-share here.

Keith Cullen

Party Candidate % 1st Pref Count 1
SNP Gary Coull (incumbent) 42.45% 1319 *
Independent Stewart Cree (incumbent) 15.26% 474 *
Conservative Valery Dickson 10.04% 312
Independent Ron Shepherd (incumbent) 22.59% 702 *
SNP Hazel Thain 9.66% 300

Keith Cullen is the home of my absolute favourite independent, Ron Shepherd. Ron reported before the election that the SNP were running him hard in his home turf of Cullen, nonetheless his personal popularity saw him re-elected with relative ease.

Polling above 50% of first preference votes the SNP should have easily seen two councillors elected here. While as an incumbent, Gary Coull doubtless collected a large personal vote, however he failed to transfer enough of his surplus to his running mate to Hazel Thain. The man now emerging as the likely Convenor of Moray Council, Stewart Cree, was elected last.


Party Candidate % 1st Pref Count 1
Conservative Margaret Gambles 7.10% 179
Independent Joe Mackay (incumbent) 22.10% 557 *
SNP Gordon McDonald (incumbent) 38.37% 967 *
SNP Linda McDonald 6.71% 169
Independent Anne McKay (incumbent) 25.71% 648 *

The “oooh” which emanated from the floor of Elgin Town Hall as the elected candidates walked onto the stage revealed the surprise nature of this result. Few expected both independents from this ward to be re-elected, with former council leader Gordon McDonald expected to take his wife with him in Buckie. Elderly Joe Mackay didn’t actively campaign for re-election, with two large advertisements in the Banffshire Advertiser offered in lieu of any leaflets. A further example of poor vote-management by the SNP allowed the former Buckie “Citizen of the Year” to be elected to the third seat, likely largely on the basis of his positive personal reputation.

Fochabers Lhanbryde

Party Candidate % 1st Pref Count 1
Liberal Democrats Peter Horton 5.00% 167
SNP Margo Howe 21.82% 728 *
SNP Anita McDonald (incumbent) 18.34% 612
Labour Sean Morton 15.34% 512 *
Conservative Douglas Ross (incumbent) 39.50% 1318 *

Without a doubt the final declaration of the day was the most astonishing. So shocked by his election was Sean Morton that didn’t even know where to stand. So delighted was the local Labour party that he got the most vociferous roar of the day. Certainly on the basis of ballot samples I was convinced Sean had failed to win enough first preference votes, though it was quite clear that he had received a large number of second and third preferences. In the five years since Douglas Ross was first elected he’s stood in Moray for both the Commons and the Scottish Parliament, so there was little doubting his being the most high-profile of the candidates in this ward. Ross’ unionist surplus allowed Sean Morton to be elected at the fourth stage by a mere six votes.

Surprising also about this result was not just that the SNP failed to win two seats here, but that their incumbent Anita McDonald was beaten by her running mate Margo Howe. Sean Morton undoubtedly ate into McDonald’s core vote in Mosstodloch and Lhanbryde.

Heldon & Laich

Party Candidate % 1st Pref Count 1
Independent John Gordon 6.05% 241
Scottish Green James Mackessack-Leitch 6.57% 262
Independent Eric McGillivray (incumbent) 18.44% 735 *
SNP Carolle Ralph 20.00% 797 *
SNP David Stewart (incumbent) 17.01% 678
Independent Chris Tuke 14.65% 584 *
Conservative Allan Wright (incumbent) 17.26% 688 *

The other shock-result of the day was the failure of SNP incumbent David Stewart to be elected. Having fronted the “Save RAF Lossiemouth” campaign and been nominated for Scottish Councillor of the Year Stewart’s running mate Carolle Ralph took the sole seat for the SNP. Given that Ralph was one vote short of a quota at stage 1 she had little surplus to transfer to her fellow Gow (a person from Lossiemouth).

A decent performance from the Greens’ James Mackessack-Leitch, however despite coming from one of the area’s leading Tory dynasties he failed to win enough of outgoing independent councillor John Hogg’s support. Given Hogg’s somewhat *ahem* conservative views, however, it is hardly surprising that his voters weren’t flocking to back a liberal young Green.

Elgin City North

Party Candidate % 1st Pref Count 1
Conservative Frank Brown 17.46% 448
SNP Patsy Gowans 20.07% 515 *
Labour Barry Jarvis (incumbent) 29.85% 766 *
Independent Darren Margach 9.39% 241
SNP Mike Shand (incumbent) 23.23% 596 *

The first declaration of the day saw one-term incumbent Barry Jarvis top the poll and win election at stage one – a considerable advance on his 2007 result. The Tories Frank Brown put in a strong performance – losing by less than one vote. However, the elimination of 19 year-old independent Darren Margach saw the election of both Nats, making for an SNP gain. Interestingly, this is the only seat in which the SNP candidate who was lower on the ballot out-polled the higher – though only just.

Elgin City South

Party Candidate % 1st Pref Count 1
Conservative James Allan 25.00% 714 *
Labour John Divers (incumbent) 37.57% 1073 *
SNP Graham Leadbitter (incumbent) 23.63% 675 *
SNP John Sharp (incumbent) 13.80% 394

My own ward. Five years ago John Divers made a quota at stage one but polled second to a single SNP candidate. However as can be seen above the man who recruited me to the Labour Party (whom I’ve since forgiven) outpolled both SNP incumbents combined. John Divers has an incredibly strong personal vote and gained considerably in the affluent West End, beyond his core support in his former ward in New Elgin.

A gain for the Tories here, which comes largely on the back of votes of supporters of the late Alastair Bisset. James Allan put in a decent performance in the Elgin City South by-election in 2008, and having spent some of the day standing with me at West End Primary School it was quite evident that he was well known and liked in the local area. In stark contrast, however, by-election winner John Sharp failed to build a profile locally during his 4 years in office.


Party Candidate % 1st Pref Count 1
Independent George Alexander 25.19% 1134 *
Scottish Senior Citizens Andy Anderson 1.73% 78
Independent Lorna Creswell (incumbent) 12.77% 575 *
Independent Jeff Hamilton (incumbent) 6.98% 314
Conservative Paul McBain 10.35% 466
SNP Aaron McLean 12.15% 547 *
UKIP Ian Meiklejohn 2.02% 91
SNP Irene Ogilvie (incumbent) 9.53% 429
Independent Anne Skene 9.11% 410 *
Scottish Green Fabio Villani 10.15% 457

The MacLennan hometown bucked the trend of declining candidate numbers with no fewer than TEN candidates standing. Forres, like Buckie, has a single ward to itself – and a sense of community identity which is conducive to the election of independents.

Forres Academy teacher George Alexander shocked by winning well in-excess of a quota at stage one. His win came largely at the expense of 12-year incumbent Jeff Hamilton, who’s 7% of first preferences is appalling. Iain Young won a seat here for the Tories in 2007 however having represented Forbeshill for the eight years prior had a strong personal vote. Paul McBain failed to hold the seat for the Tories.

By-election winner Lorna Cresswell held on to her seat, with fellow independent Anne Skene elected by vertue of being the last person standing. The Greens’ real hope of a gain in Moray was Fabio Villani, who despite being well known in the local area failed to pick up enough transfers to make the gain.


The SNP had made it clear that they expected an overall majority in Moray – which given that the Nats won Moray with 59% of the vote last year was far from being a lofty ambition. That they had fallen well short of their ambition was apparent early on, when they failed to hang onto their two in Elgin South, and their failure to win a second in Keith Cullen. However their real disappointment came in losing David Stewart – who appeared to be left in little doubt as to whom he blamed for his loss. Perhaps the most striking pattern is that, barring Elgin City North, where a party fielded two candidates in one ward the candidate who appeared higher-up on the ballot outpolled their colleague.

The Tories too were hoping to pick up seats, in particular in Forres and Elgin North – however they defied expectations in winning a seat in Elgin City South, remaining in the same position as they were five years ago.

Undoubtedly gaining Sean Morton was a great result for the local Labour Party. Although when we expected, having sampled ballots, that Sean wasn’t going to win – we were still celebrating. John Divers was the only candidate from any party to outpoll the SNP, and for Barry Jarvis to top the poll has provided a much needed morale-boost. To be accompanied by gains in Highland, winning our first ever councillors in Aberdeenshire, and to stun everyone by winning Aberdeen (which absolutely no one had seriously countenanced) shows real progress for Labour in the North of Scotland.

As for an administration in Moray, my money’s on a continuation of the status quo. This new independent group is undoubtedly more reluctant to share power with the Tories, in particular because of the rogue element that is Douglas Ross. However having been burned by their experience of coalition with the Independents from 1999-2004, the Labour group appears content to sit in opposition and work with any administration on an issue-by-issue basis and enjoy the liberty to stick-to-their-principles that opposition affords.

p.s. Apologies for the fact that this is my first post in several months – I’ve been working pretty hard on my research into matters relating to taxation in public international law. If you’re lucky, I might even blog about that one day.