The strange death of Aberdeenshire Liberalism

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THE emerging theme of the local elections last week was the demise of the Liberal Democrats as the governing party in the shire, along with significant losses across Britain.

While much has been ascribed to the party’s coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster, the party locally has been beset with schisms and defections since the last local elections in 2007, which saw it emerge the single largest party in the shire.

Perhaps most notably, the defection of Cllrs Ford, Storr, Johnston in the wake of controversy surrounding the Trump International development in 2009 dealt a significant blow to the party, reducing its majority inside the administration and revealing deep divisions. Cllr Storr - who stepped down at the election - has become a member of the Scottish Greens, as has Cllr Martin Ford, while Cllr Paul Johnston remains an Independent.

The Liberal group also suffered the defection of Inverurie member Mike Raeburn in the run-up to the election, after he publicly came out against the coalition at Westminster with the Conservatives, criticising party leader Nick Clegg as ‘a person who breaks his word’.

Cllr John Loveday ascribed the losses to the ongoing unpopularity of the Coalition government, as did Cllr Isobel Davidson - though she added that the defection of the Democratic Independents had hurt the party as well.

“A number of constituents believed, when I spoke to them, that the Liberal Democrats were dead set against the Trump Project, and hadn’t made a distinction between the party and the Democratic Independents. I do think that hurt us,” she said.

The rump party - which continues to field 12 councillors in the shire - has a glimmer of hope, however, being a desirable partner for whoever goes on to form the next Aberdeenshire administration - still to be decided.