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Here are the six candidates vying to become Elgin City North councillors

Confidence is high among the major  parties in Moray as voters go to the polls in the local government elections.
Confidence is high among the major parties in Moray as voters go to the polls in the local government elections.

Elgin City North has had a turbulent time with its councillors over the last five years.

Within days of being elected in May 2017, independent Sandy Cooper resigned from the job prompting a by-election.

Conservative candidate Maria McLean clinched the seat, and she joined fellow Tory Frank Brown and SNP councillor Paula Coy in representing the ward on Moray Council.

Although most of the councillors lived in Elgin none stayed in the ward, and since the last local election Mrs McLean moved to Edinburgh, Mr Brown went to stay in Aberdeenshire and Ms Coy stood down as a member for Elgin North for personal reasons.

There are six candidates seeking one of the three seats available in the ward.

Issues facing voters include services at Dr Gray’s Hospital, traffic problems and the cost of living.

Neil Alexander, Lib Dem

Liberal Democrat candidate Neil Alexander.

Liberal Democrat candidate Neil Alexander works as a game designer, and plays with Moray Rugby Club.

He grew up in Dunblane and has been inspired to stand by the community in his hometown, who campaigned for changes to firearms legislation following the fatal shooting at the primary school in March 1996 that took the lives of 16 pupils and their teacher.

He said: “As I was growing up I could see the community coming together in a clear show of community empowerment and a clear show of what a community can do. That was really, really important to me.

“Dr Gray’s Hospital and the maternity services are an issue. People should not be travelling along the A96 to bring a child into the world, it’s not on.

“I think Moray is getting a bad deal from both sides. They (the SNP and the Conservatives) are so obsessed with fighting each other they don’t put their constituents first.

“I like to think I’m a new voice that cares about the community and who lives in the area.”

Amber Dunbar, Conservative

Conservative candidate for Elgin North Amber Dunbar.

Amber Dunbar is standing for the Conservatives, and was born and raised in Elgin. She became involved in politics while doing work experience in the Moray parliamentary office of MP Douglas Ross.

It was during that time she realised she wanted to work with and for the community long-term.

Ms Dunbar said: “The hospital is not in the ward but it has an impact on the people in the ward, and it’s one of the biggest things people talk to me about on the doorstep.

“It’s not just the maternity unit, but you need paediatrics and other services that go along with that. And people don’t like going to Aberdeen for their hospital appointments.

“These are clearly things that can be campaigned on and that’s something I would do.

“There’s a lot of congestion in the town, and Keith has a similar issue.

“If we get the A96 duelling done it would help a lot of people and businesses, and there could be a lot of hidden benefits including more green space in the town.”

She is backing a Conservative manifesto pledge to address the problem of potholes, is keen to see more done to attract and keep young people in the area and to put Moray on the map as a tourist destination.

Jérémie Fernandes, SNP

Jérémie Fernandes is standing for the SNP.

The SNP candidate for Elgin North is Jérémie Fernandes.

Originally from France, he moved to Scotland in 2012 to teach at Aberdeen University before he retrained as an information professional. He moved to Elgin seven years ago and works at Moray College.

Mr Fernandes was a finalist in the Moray Community Awards 2018.

He said: “I think the SNP have a good track record in Moray, they have taken the responsibility of balancing the budget in a fair and responsible way as a minority administration, while preserving services and jobs

“My ethnicity is Hispanic and for me issues around equalities are very important.

“Bullying in schools, and that includes racism and also LGBT and trans bullying, has increased a lot recently and it needs to be tackled.

“Elgin is my home and I will always stand up for the community. I want people, businesses and community groups to know that they can approach me for assistance on any issue.”

Graham Jarvis, Independent

Independent candidate Graham Jarvis.

Independent candidate Graham Jarvis was a former manager of Elgin community centre.

He worked his way through the ranks to finish his career with the local authority as acting corporate director of education and children’s services.

He said: “Health and Dr Gray’s are at the top of the list of people’s concerns.

“I was in hospital last year and, while the staff at Gray’s are wonderful and work their butts off, the difference between Gray’s and Aberdeen is huge.

“Given the size of Moray, the people deserve a better hospital.

“Parking is a problem in the pedestrian zone in the High Street, and on Batchen Street and Batchen Lane there are cars parked on double yellow lines constantly. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

“We need school crossing patrollers back in Elgin North in particular.  Children have to cross Morriston Road to get to Elgin Academy and Bishopmill Primary, and at East End Primary they have to cross the A96. It is a major, major issue.”

With some schools in Elgin nearing capacity, Mr Jarvis is calling for a review of catchment areas, pupil placement requests and the need for nursery provision at some schools including Bishopmill Primary.

Rebecca Kail, Green

Green Party candidate Rebecca Kail.

Rebecca Kail is the Green Party representative in the ward. A trained counsellor, she works in the library while volunteering with several local groups, and was heavily involved with Elgin Allotment Association.

She said: “I’m pleased that we have three Green candidates standing in Moray.

“I think that’s a first and it’s encouraging to know you have the camaraderie of that, and it’s an indication that climate change is moving up the agenda.

“Moray Council has a policy on climate change, and policies are great but I’m keen to see action.

“There is an ambitious target of being carbon neutral by 2030, but it needs action to keep going and for everybody to be involved with that.

“I’m keen to see an area for allotments in Lesmurdie where people can benefit from growing their own fruit and veg, that helps keeping them fit and healthy.

“People are struggling to make ends meet and with fuel prices going up and the cost of heating their homes increasing, it is clearly and issue for a lot of people.

“We have to make sure that dealing with the climate crisis is something everybody can afford. So if there was better insulation then it makes it easier to heat homes.”

Sandy Keith, Labour

Sandy Keith is Labour’s candidate for in the ward.

Mr Keith has been out campaigning as the Labour candidate in the ward for several months.

Issues on the doorstep include:

  • charges for putting garden waste in the brown bin
  • gull problems
  • improving pupil attainment following the impact of the Covid pandemic
  • the state of the town centre and Cooper Park.

He said: “If we’re going to take climate change seriously we need to embrace recycling and composting, and shouldn’t be penalising people for doing the right thing.

“Folk do put what should be going in the brown bin in the general waste green bin, and that costs the council money because it goes to landfill. That causes methane a green house gas, and it’s a false economy.

“I’ve lived in the ward for decades and I think it’s necessary. If you’re not living anywhere near your ward you’ll never pick up on the potholes or street lights that are not working, and doing that makes for a better community.

“Elgin North has been poorly dealt with by it’s representatives over the last five years, partly because they didn’t live in the area. I think this part of the town deserves a better deal.”

The vote that will decide the make-up of Moray Council will be held on May 5.

The count will take place in Elgin Town Hall the following day.

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