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Aberdeenshire Council elections Q&A: What to look out for on voting day and beyond

Aberdeenshire will go to the polls on Thursday.
Aberdeenshire will go to the polls on Thursday.

It is only a matter of hours until polls open in the Aberdeenshire Council elections.

On Friday, we will find out which hopefuls have been picked to represent the local authority’s 19 wards for the next five years.

Now we have put together this guide to answer some of the questions voters are bound to have on their minds…

That includes:

  • Who the major local party figures are up against
  • What the most competitive ward is
  • Who might be most worried about losing their seat

Who is standing in the council elections?

Just over half of the 135 people standing in the election will become an Aberdeenshire councillor, with 70 seats available.

Of the 70 people currently on the council, 49 are seeking re-election.

What is the gender balance?

There are 55 women among the 135 candidates, and in three wards – Banff and District, Troup, and Peterhead South and Cruden – the ballots are all-male.

Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the sexism present on social media puts women off running for election, adding that the SNP had trouble recruiting female candidates for that reason.

Who isn’t standing in the council elections?

A number of big names in Aberdeenshire Council are not running for re-election, including both the current provost and leader.

Liberal Democrat Bill Howatson has served in the former role since 2017, but has had a seat on the council for the past 23 years.

Andy Kille, the group Conservative leader who took over as council leader in 2020, also decided not to run again this year.

Bill Howatson, pictured at the start of the salmon fishing season. Picture by Heather Fowlie

Charles Buchan, a former science teacher at Fraserburgh Academy, and Martin Ford, best known for becoming Donald Trump’s top adversary in the battle over his Balmedie golf course, will also depart.

Sadly, a technology snafu meant most of the leavers were unable to say goodbye to their colleagues in person last week.

Where are the party leaders standing?

You’ll find local SNP leader Gwyneth Petrie running in Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford.

Peter Argyle, who leads the Lib Dem group, is up for election in Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside.

With Mr Kille stepping down, a new Tory leader is destined to be crowned after the vote.

Which ward has the most candidates?

The most competitive ward is Mearns, with 11 people aiming to win four seats.

Among the candidates are Labour’s Yvonne Allan, who is swapping local authorities after representing Torry and Ferryhill at Aberdeen Council for the last five years.

And Leigh Wilson, who defected to Alba from the SNP after Alex Salmond launched his party last year, is also standing.

Will he hold onto the seat, or will independence-supporting voters prefer the SNP pick Kevin Stelfox?

Alison Evison is among 11 candidates in the Mearns ward.

Alison Evison, the former Labour group leader who is also the president of Cosla, is also running in Mearns as an independent after leaving the party.

This is also the seat currently held by Lib Dem mainstay and keen angler Bill Howatson – so it will be interesting to see if the party’s new candidate Shona Ewen picks up his votes.

Which ward has the fewest?

That would be Peterhead South and Cruden.

There are just four candidates standing for election there, with three of them guaranteed to take a seat on Aberdeenshire Council.

That’s two from the Tories, one from the Lib Dems and one from the SNP.

Is anyone standing for a different party?

There are a few current councillors who are looking to get re-elected under a different party allegiance – or even no party at all.

Like the aforementioned Leigh Wilson, Brian Topping was elected under the SNP banner in 2017 and later switched to Alba. He is standing again in Fraserburgh and District.

Among those now running as independents are Geva Blackett, who quit the SNP last year, and Dianne Beagrie, who left the Tories in January but wouldn’t tell us why.

Former council leader Jim Gifford, who was elected to represent Mid-Formartine as a Conservative, is now an independent and is standing in East Garioch in order to fight plans for an enormous quarry at Beauty Hill near Newmachar.

Friday’s results will reveal if voters are more keen on them as individuals or the parties they originally represented…

Are there any councillors who might fear losing their seats?

One current councillor who might be concerned for their position is Robbie Withey.

The Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford candidate was suspended from the Conservatives and charged by police last month following a disturbance in Alford.

A video that was shared online allegedly shows him threatening another man and holding him by the shirt collar.

Since then, he’s shared a number of contrite posts on his campaign Facebook page, and received a large number of supportive comments in response.

It's not been the easiest 12 months in my personal life and I guess one of the things about being a public figure is…

Posted by Robbie Withey – Huntly Strathbogie and Howe of Alford on Wednesday, 27 April 2022

How will national politics affect local vote?

On a broader note, many political analysts have raised the possibility of a Conservative collapse at the UK local elections after a seemingly constant series of damaging scandals in Boris Johnson’s government.

The extent to which that’s reflected up in Aberdeenshire remains to be seen – but we’ll know by this weekend.

You can find a definitive list of every candidate standing in every Aberdeenshire ward at this link.

Alternatively, if it’s policies you’re looking for, take a look at our guide to what parties said about the north-east’s top issues in their manifestos.

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