The Conservative candidate for Aberdeen South has pulled out of the race to win the seat at the general election.
A spokesman for the Tories confirmed last night that Mark Jones had stepped down because of family health reasons.
The news was greeted with “shock” by members of the 49-year-old’s campaign team, who have been fighting to seize the seat from Labour’s Anne Begg at the election, expected on May 6.
It is understood Mr Jones’s 78-year-old mother had been suffering from ill health for more than a year at the family’s home in Orkney.
A party spokesman said he expected that a replacement candidate would be selected this week.
“He has had to step down for family health reasons and he is in our thoughts,” he added.
“We will immediately move to select a successor. I would anticipate that would be done this week.
“The election is coming and the task is to get another candidate in place.”
It is understood Conservative members will meet in the city tomorrow to select a replacement.
Mr Jones had been preparing for the upcoming election for more than a year, bringing high-profile backers to the city to join his campaign, including Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie.
Labour Party members privately view the Tories as the main challenger to Ms Begg, who holds a 1,348 majority, although some analysts have predicted it could become a four-way fight between the main parties.
Aberdeen South is number 10 on the list of target seats for the Liberal Democrats, who were runners-up in 2005, and number 184 for the Conservatives.
Frank Webster, who helped run Mr Jones’s campaign, was surprised when the Press and Journal told him of his decision to stand down.
“It has come as a great shock,” the 27-year-old said.
“I worked for the guy for over a year and he was the best candidate I’ve ever worked for.”
Mr Jones, who could not be contacted last night, lives with his mother on a farm at Holm of Grimbister, in Orkney.
A former Tory councillor for Redbridge, he contested Paisley South for the party in the 2003 Scottish Parliament elections, and Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock in 2005, as well as the Highlands and Islands region and Shetland constituency in the 2007 elections for Holyrood.