THE SNP have won a by-election in Moray, giving them the same amount of councillors as the ruling Tory minority administration.

John Stuart, the SNP's candidate, returned the most votes in the Buckie ward after three rounds, with no candidate reaching the quota of 1199 votes during the first stage. 

Stuart returned 1172 votes at the first stage, 1181 at stage two and 1192 at stage three, but was elected with only seven votes short of meeting the quota. 

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With a turnout of 29.6% and 2408 votes cast, Stuart returned 48.6% of first preference votes and 49.5% of votes at stage three. 

The Tory candidate Tim Eagle came in second place with 879 votes at stage one, 884 at stage two and 904 at stage three.

Neil Houlden, the independent candidate, did not get enough votes to pass the second stage, with Les Tarr, the LibDem's candidate, not getting enough votes to pass into the third round of vote counting.

The Tories run Moray council with a minority administration of nine members, which the SNP now also have with Stuart's win. There are also three Labour members, two independent councillors, one non-aligned conservative, and one Green. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon later congratulated Stuart on his win, writing on Twitter: "Congratulations to newest @theSNP councillor @john_SNP4Buckie - a brilliant result for @moraysnp."

Karen Adam, MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, who attended the vote count, told The National: “The people of Buckie have spoken and given a ringing endorsement for the SNP and John Stuart who has been a stalwart of the local community.

"Residents of Buckie, Findochty, Portessie, Rathven, and Arradoul have firmly rejected the damaging policies of the Conservative administration in power at Moray Council.

"I’ll be working hard alongside councillor John Stuart and councillor Sonya Warren for the benefit of the residents of Buckie and Moray.

"Battling the UK Government’s self-inflicted cost-of-living crisis is a main priority for the SNP and our elected representatives and we’ll be doing everything we can across our remits to support good governance and the people we represent.”

The Moray SNP group tweeted: "Congratulations to John Stuart, elected as the new @theSNP councillor for Buckie. Thanks to voters across the Buckie ward for your fantastic support yesterday.

"John will join our eight other SNP Moray councillors standing up for our local communities."

Local elections are conducted using the Single Transferable Vote (STV) method where voters number candidates in order of preference.

Then, in the case of the Buckie by-election, a quota was set with candidates needing to get 50% +1 of the total votes cast in order to win.

LibDem councillor Christopher Price resigned from his role after 103 days, stating that he found it difficult to manage his councillor duties whilst working full-time as a travel clerk with the Ministry of Defence.

Price was one of only three candidates who stood in the Buckie ward during this year's local authority elections on May 6.

The National: John Stuart with Karen Adam MSP on the campaign trail ahead of Thursday's by-electionJohn Stuart with Karen Adam MSP on the campaign trail ahead of Thursday's by-election (Image: SNP)

Along with the SNP's Sonya Warren and Neil McLennan, who was a Tory at the time before renouncing his party affiliation due to concerns about "poor behaviour", the three councillors were sworn in without a vote.

McLennan, speaking after the vote count, said that the electorate in Buckie sent a "strong message" to the Tories that the party needs reform.

The former Tory group leader in Moray said: "I am delighted for Buckie’s new councillor John Stuart of the SNP. From my interactions with him, I can see a dedicated community servant with public-service expertise and a great way with people.  

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"I believe Councillor Warren, Councillor Stuart and I will stand up for Buckie, especially against this administration who seem to have no direction for our ward nor indeed for Moray as a whole."

In this week's by-election there were five candidates; John Stuart (SNP), Tim Eagle (Tory), Keighly Goudie (Labour), Neil Houlden (unaligned), and Les Tarr (LibDem).