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by Jack Thomson
27 April 2021
Constituency profile: Moray

Elgin Cathedral in Moray (Alamy)

Constituency profile: Moray

The SNP's Richard Lochhead has held the seat since 2006, but the Scottish Conservatives closed the gap to just under 3,000 votes in 2016

The Scottish Conservatives will be looking to build on the progress they made in Moray in the last Scottish Parliament election and will feel gaining the seat from the SNP is an achievable target.

Some of the intrigue surrounding this particular constituency is down to who is not standing for election there, rather than the candidates who are.

Having been comfortably beaten by Richard Lochhead in 2011, Douglas Ross cut the number of votes in it to 2,875 in 2016.

This time around, however, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who holds the corresponding Westminster seat, will not be on the constituency ballot paper.

Instead Ross is top of his party's Highlands and Islands list, more or less guaranteeing himself a place in the Scottish Parliament. It's a move which prompted the SNP's Ian Blackford to say Ross was "too feart" to stand in a constituency.

The person tasked with wrestling the seat from Lochhead, an experienced Scottish Government minister and politician, will be Tim Eagle, a former police officer.

Most recently, Eagle has been a councillor for Buckie and leader of the opposition Conservative group on Moray Council. He wants to see the Hate Crime Bill repealed, which he described as a "scandalous piece of legislation".

Meanwhile Jo Kirby, a local teacher, will compete for the constituency for Scottish Labour and Sheila Ritchie, a former MEP, will do so for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Lochhead has been the MSP for Moray since 2006. Following the death of Margaret Ewing, he resigned his regional seat to successfully contest the by-election.

Having been a local MSP for 15 years, as well as holding a prominent role in the government as minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Lochhead will likely be considered the frontrunner for the seat in this election. 

That said, the SNP's majority dropping from 38.3 per cent to 8.6 per cent, between 2011 and 2016, shows Eagle and the Scottish Conservatives are not without a chance of success in Moray next week.

Add that to the fact that the Westminster constituency, a slightly bigger area, went to the Conservatives in the 2017 General Election and was held in 2019, the Tories will be optimistic.

The UK seat had been Angus Robertson's from 2001 to 2017 and Margaret Ewing's before then. Ross' win there was considered an upset and while a Conservative win next week would not be quite as unexpected, it would be an impressive result.

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