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Campaigners have final say ahead of Aberdeen council by-election

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Voters will head to the polls in Aberdeen for a council by-election tomorrow.

Candidates in the Kincorth, Nigg and Cove race have foregone the usual door knocking and handshaking amid a global pandemic but have been out pounding the streets of south Aberdeen to win support.

Delayed by Covid-19, the poll was prompted by the resignation of the SNP’s Stephen Flynn, who was elected to Westminster as Aberdeen South MP in December.

A four-member ward, residents are still represented by councillors from the SNP, Conservatives and the suspended Labour group.

Miranda Radley, who hopes to hold the seat for the SNP, said the main issues raised were the potential development of Leggart Brae, the citywide physical distancing works and pupil safety at the area’s schools.

Education was at the heart of Liberal Democrat Moira Henderson’s campaign too, with the teacher promising to “continually raise the issue” of the need for more funding in Aberdeen schools.

Planning matters are top priorities for Scottish Greens candidate Daniel Verhamme, who is pushing for an “overhaul” of development plans in the south of the city, with Kincorth, Nigg and Cove “already squeezed” by the major roads surrounding them.

He is also vocal against the proposed location of the energy transition zone in St Fittick’s Park in nearby Torry.

The Conservative, Labour and Independent administration will be hoping to add to their ranks too.

Tory hopes have been pinned on former police call handler Christopher Wyles, who lives in the ward.

He said: “I am standing for council because I want to make sure our area continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family.

“It’s vital the good work of Aberdeen City Council in transforming sites such as the former Kincorth Academy continue throughout the area and I’m determined to see this happen.”

Scottish Labour rival, Shona Simpson, caused friction with party bosses on Monday as she told The P&J she would break rank and join the suspended Aberdeen Nine in the ruling coalition if elected as the group was “delivering a Labour manifesto”.

But Simon McLean, an independent, has promised to fix an ailing organisation, if voters back him.

He said: “The majority of people I have spoken to have different issues – but they all are symptoms to the cause which is the council itself.

“My campaign has predominantly been focused on reforming the council.”

Fellow independent Lisette Bellizzi Houston too indicated it was the ill perception of the local authority that led to her mid-lockdown decision to stand.

“I was very frustrated with the communications coming out and not feeling it was very clear – in a moment of frustration I decided to run.

“I have been taking the time to ask residents what their issues are as that’s what local government should be about: safety and security, funding for Kincorth community centre and funding the Leggart Brae housing development have all come up.

“I’m not interested in pursuing a political career;  I love this city but feel people are very frustrated by the council and I would like to help.”

Planning a return to the Town House is Andrew Finlayson, who reports residents are concerned about the potential loss of “iconic” Doonies Farm and says he would work to save it from development.

And he defended his role in the previous Labour-led administration before he lost his seat in 2017 in a council vote dominated by Brexit debate.

“We were totally free to vote how we wanted – including on the waste incinerator in Tullos and the hydrogen refuelling station in Cove.

“But I found I was kept up-to-date with the goings on of the council as part of the administration – as a lone wolf I’d have been left with scraps.

Pushed to say whether he would join with his former colleagues again, he added: “I would have to see how the administration was working, if elected, but last time it was the best solution to be part of the administration with a free vote.”

Those candidates face opposition from SLP man Bryce Hope, who states his main aims as a councillor would be “complete opposition” to lockdown restrictions, to reduce tax and to push to end “monopolisation and cronyism” in housing development.

Another independent, Sochima Iroh, who made Aberdeen his home after moving to earn degrees from both city universities, has promised to defend public services.

He has pledged to fight for quality and affordable out-of-school childcare, a council-owned bus fleet and for work to make Aberdeen more energy sustainable to be sped up.

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