FORMER SNP councillor David Stewart has revealed that he would have stood as an Independent candidate in the Heldon and Laich by-election, had it not been for the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Carolle Ralph.
Mrs Ralph stood down last month after claiming she had been the victim of a vicious letter -writing and online stalking campaign. Her allegations are the subject of an ongoing police investigation.
She was elected last May, while sitting councillor and colleague Mr Stewart lost his seat in the multi-member ward.
"Had the by-election been called for any other reason than the unfair and unjust treatment of Carolle Ralph, I would have stood as an Independent candidate," he said.
Mr Stewart (59) subsequently quit the SNP, but insists that his decision was prompted not by the election result but by receiving a copy of a text message communication that he claims was sent by someone in SNP headquarters to a senior Moray party member.
The message read: ‘Yes I agree it is essential to have the right people in council in the run-up to 2014 and the Labour style de-selection is not an option for us, but my analysis is still that your little Ward 5 difficulty will resolve itself.
‘The doorstep message to share 1st and 2nd votes evenly between candidates may have some influence, but the ‘SNP 1, SNP 2’ message, plus natural voter laziness, should ensure that the ballot paper order secures Ralph’s position and even consigns Stewart to the long grass at the same time.’
Mr Stewart, who now works for an oil supply company in the North-east, says a copy of the communication was passed to him by a respected figure in the party whose "honesty and integrity" he trusted.
He said he felt undermined by the communication, although the SNP has strongly denied any such message was sent by anyone associated with headquarters.
Mr Stewart stands by his claims, however, adding: "It would appear at the last council election that the SNP were more concerned about the 2014 referendum than supporting hard-working councillors.
"The saddest part of this sorry saga is that there are now two people who stood up and fought for this community who now through no fault of their own are unable to do so.
"The way I have been treated by some ex-colleagues is nothing short of pitiful. It is a shame because I had been a member of the party since I was 18 years old."
An SNP spokesman said: "At the 2012 local government elections, the SNP received the most votes by far across Moray, and elected two candidates in a number of wards.
"It is a regret that this was not possible in all areas despite the election materials, guidance and support provided to all candidates, who together with local members were in charge of their own ward campaigns.
"Formal investigations have established that no communication was sent from SNP HQ with the contents that David Stewart alleges.
"David was asked to help establish who would produce such a text, present it as being from HQ and to what purpose.
"No evidence has been provided to substantiate the claim, nor is there any explicable motive why any party would not want to have a successful councillor re-elected.
"The text has been referred to the police."