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'I thought my MSP chance had gone' – bolt from the blue sees former Buckie councillor get Scottish Parliament call-up

By Alan Beresford

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Former Buckie councillor Tim Eagle is now a Highlands and Islands MSP. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Former Buckie councillor Tim Eagle is now a Highlands and Islands MSP. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

A BOLT out of the blue has seen a former Buckie councillor start a new career as an MSP.

Tim Eagle represented the Buckie ward between 2017 and 2022, serving as the Conservative group leader on the local authority.

In the 2021 Scottish Parliament election he stood for the party in the Moray constituency against the incumbent SNP MSP Richard Lochhead, although this challenge was to prove unsuccessful. He was also on the Tories' regional list for Highlands and Islands, where he was fifth behind Douglas Ross, Jamie Halcro Johnston, Edward Mountain and Donald Cameron, who were all returned to Holyrood.

However, Mr Cameron recently resigned his seat to take up a role with the Scotland Office at Westminster in the House of Lords which meant that Mr Eagle received a phone call from Scottish Conservative Party boss Mr Ross telling him he was now an MSP.

In what was a whirlwind few days, Mr Eagle found himself heading from his small farm just outside Buckie to be sworn in as an MSP in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh last week.

Reflecting on a life-changing week, he said: "I had an inkling that Donald might resign though people tend to keep things like that close to their chest.

"I knew I was fifth on the list but before this I never considered I'd get in. Douglas, Jamie, Edward and Donald were all accomplished MSPs and there was no way I was getting ahead of them; looking at it from the standpoint of the last election these guys were going nowhere for the next five years.

"Then out of the blue I got a phone call from Douglas telling me I was an MSP. I made a quick call to my wife and then accepted the offer. I felt I had to take it; over 16,000 people voted for me in 2021 and I want to represent them, I don't want to let them down.

"At the last election I thought that it was going to be my one shot at becoming an MSP. I did well but ultimately didn't make it so I thought to myself 'Well, that's it' and got on with life."

Mr Eagle bowed out of political life at the 2022 local authority elections feeling that the demands of his council work was encroaching too much on his family life, although he was later to fly the flag for the Tories at the Buckie by-election at the end of the year.

Looking ahead to the challenge that awaits, Mr Eagle said: "The first few weeks at Holyrood I'll basically be finding my way around, getting to know people and establishing contacts, and finding out how things work.

"Being an MSP is a whole different ball game.

"It's a difficult time for Scotland in many ways and there are so many huge issues to deal with during the rest of the parliamentary term. The state of the NHS and education are massive ones, as are the dualling of the A96 and A9. These things are all close to my heart, as are fishing and farming.

"One thing is for sure, I'm looking forward to representing the people of the Highlands and Islands region."

He added that he was going to discuss with his fellow Highlands and Islands Conservative MSPs how they were going to divide up the huge electoral region into areas of responsibilities between them. The region covers the Scottish Parliament constituencies of Moray, Argyll and Bute, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Inverness and Nairn, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Orkney, Shetland, Skye, and Lochaber and Badenoch.

Mr Eagle was officially sworn in at the Scottish Parliament last Tuesday.

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