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Liberal Democrats delight at winning twin Highland Council by-elections as newly elected Councillor Colin Aitken becomes the second youngest member

By Scott Maclennan

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The Liberal Democrat Highland by-election winners, Colin Aitken and Jill Tilt.
The Liberal Democrat Highland by-election winners, Colin Aitken and Jill Tilt.

Liberal Democrats have been celebrating a double win after scooping both seats in the Highland Council by-elections for Inverness West and in Caithness.

Newly elected Councillor Colin Aitken for Inverness said he is looking forward to getting to work and hopes to bring some “positives” to the local authority.

At 25 he will be the youngest member of the council, something he says is important when bringing a “good spectrum” of experience to bear on deliberations.

He will replace the former deputy provost of Inverness Cllr Graham Ross who stood down earlier this year for personal reasons.

Mr Aitken got a total of 678 first preference votes and eventually reached the 1066 ballot threshold needed to be elected at the seventh round with a turnout of 25.3 per cent.

The SNP's Kate Maclean got 718 first preference votes – not enough to win outright.

The process then moved on to second, third and fourth preferences until a winner was declared with candidates eliminated at each round.

The Conservatives Max Bannerman got 293 in the first round, Independent Duncan McDonald got 230 while the Greens' Ryan Mackintosh polled 159.

The Independence for Scotland Party's Iain Forsyth for 42 first preference votes and Calum Liptrot of the Scottish Libertarian Party got 11.

However, the announcement of the win was badly botched by the council after many were encouraged to keep abreast of the count online.

There was no audio of returning officer and council chief executive Donna Manson making the announcement nor of Mr Aitken's acceptance speech.

Cllr Aitken said of the campaign: “It was mostly positive, we were out on the doors talking to people and there was a positive atmosphere and I think that was probably what pushed us over.

“I think there was cautious optimism, when we saw the first preference results we knew it was going to be close. Looking at the Conservatives and the independents, we thought we might get some of those.

“I am looking forward to getting started, I think it is a great opportunity to hopefully bring some positives to the council with some younger representation.

“It is important to have a younger voice, it is about having a good spectrum of ages and backgrounds and a diverse group.”

Along with the victory of Jill Tilt in Wick and East Caithness, the win brings the number of Liberal Democrats in the council to 11, making them the third largest group after the Independents and the SNP.

The election of the two councillors was welcomed by Lib Dem far north MP Jamie Stone who congratulated them both on their by-election victories.

He said: “Both Jill and Colin are to be congratulated for two splendid results. I have no doubt that they will make a very significant contribution to public representation and will be exceptionally strong voices for their communities on the Highland Council.

“On a wider note, these results are clear indicators of the beginning of a sea change in Scottish politics. Liberalism is alive and well.”

Related Story – Breaking: The Liberal Democrats' Colin Aitken is elected to represent the Inverness West ward after former Highland Councillor Graham Ross stood down

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