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5 reasons Aberdeenshire North and Moray East became Scotland’s most volatile election contest

It’s the seat that has already cost Douglas Ross his job as Tory leader - while Labour ditched its candidate over a pro-Russia row.

Douglas Ross had stepped in to replace David Duguid. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson.
Douglas Ross had stepped in to replace David Duguid. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson.

It’s the north-east general election contest that has already cost Scottish Tory chief Douglas Ross his job as a direct result of his decision to stand.

Another candidate was swiftly ditched and suspended by Labour due to historic “pro-Russia” posts he shared on social media.

Meanwhile, the candidates for Reform and the Lib Dems have been caught up in difficult headlines too.

And on Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Mr Ross put their reputations on the line again by saying they’re confident in the seat – and will make “progress” in the north-east.

How did Aberdeenshire North and Moray East become such a volatile constituency in this snap election?

1. David Duguid sacked while in hospital

Rishi Sunak’s surprise election announcement on May 22 left his party in an awkward position in the north-east.

Former Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid had already been picked as the candidate by local Tory members.

But he remained unwell in hospital following treatment for a serious spinal injury and pneumonia.

David Duguid MP
David Duguid was dropped as a candidate by the Tories. Image: Scottish Conservatives

Mr Duguid said he was still determined to run in the contest even though he would be unable to get out on the campaign trail.

But on June 5 he was dropped by the party against his own wishes since they deemed it was unviable for him to stand.

2. Douglas Ross steps in…then loses his job

If the decision to ditch Mr Duguid as the candidate was already controversial enough, Tory leader Mr Ross stepping into the fold made things ten times worse.

Mr Ross – the former Moray MP – had previously said he would leave Westminster to focus on his duties at Holyrood.

Yet he stunned party colleagues with a sudden U-turn, deeming himself the only possible candidate who could replace Mr Duguid.

Outgoing Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross. Image: DC Thomson.

Some Scottish Tory MSPs were deeply unhappy with how their leader had behaved – while First Minister John Swinney branded his actions “despicable”.

It turned Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, already an important battleground, into a priority target seat for the SNP.

The pressure soon became too much for Mr Ross, who announced days later he will quit his job as Tory boss after the July 4 election.

3. Labour ditch candidate over pro-Russia posts row

Little attention had been paid to Labour candidate Andy Brown, a veteran activist standing for the party in a seat they have no hope of winning.

Yet he soon became the focus of national attention after the Press and Journal exclusively revealed he had shared pro-Russia posts on social media.

The Labour candidate had posted a link to state media outlet Russia Today on his Facebook page doubting whether the Kremlin was behind the 2018 Salisbury poisonings.

Suspended Labour candidate Andy Brown is fighting to clear his name. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson.

Party bosses took immediate action just hours later, suspending Mr Brown and withdrawing support for him.

His name will remain on the ballot since it is too late for a new candidate to be put forward.

But Mr Brown came out swinging in defence of himself in a bid to clear his name, insisting he would never show support for Vladimir Putin’s regime.

4. Reform and Lib Dem candidates brought into the mix

Days after Mr Brown was sacked by Labour, two more candidates in the seat became the subject of criticism over their own past remarks.

It was revealed that Jo Hart, the candidate for Nigel Farage’s Reform UK, had shared a post calling the Royal Family “benefit scroungers” in a rant against the monarchy.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dem contender for the seat came under fire for “racist language” used in past social media posts.

Candidate Ian Bailey – in a clearly provocative message about the character of Brexit voters – suggested they only wanted to leave the EU so they could send “darkies” home.

5. It’s too close to call

SNP candidate Seamus Logan in Peterhead. Image: DC Thomson.

Even the experts are struggling to say who will come out on top on July 4.

Some surveys predict a Tory wipeout in Scotland, while others are more optimistic about the party’s vote holding up in the north-east.

One poll, detailed here, suggests Mr Ross could lose his gamble.

But that’s something he and Mr Sunak rejected during a visit to Edinburgh on Monday.

The prime minister said: “Douglas and I are confident that we’re going to make good progress here in Scotland.”

Check below for more details on all candidates in every constituency in Scotland.

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