Independent candidate Russell Jones tops the poll in Badenoch and Strathspey
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Newly-elected Highland councillor Russell Jones has said he is looking forward to getting on with the job after topping the poll for Badenoch and Strathspey.
Councillor Jones (Independent), who is well-known in shinty circles and through his work for Lucky 2B Here, was well clear of the other candidates.
He topped the first preference votes with 1280 votes from Muriel Cockburn (SNP) with 886.
John Bruce (Scottish Conservatives) was also returned (861 votes) as was Highland Council convener in the previous council, Bill Lobban (Independent) with 842 votes.
Highland Council's first ever Green councillor Pippa Hadley was not returned.
The only change from the previous local councillors for the strath is Mr Jones in place of Pippa Hadley. Both candidates live in Kingussie.
Councillor Jones told the Strathy after the declaration for Badenoch and Strathspey at Inverness Sports Hall a short time ago: "It was a pleasing result and I am looking forward to getting on with the job now.
"I could not say I was expecting to top the local poll but I worked hard on the campaign trail and I spoke to a lot of people. I hand delivered 6500 election leaflets.
"I got myself out there which on a personal level was difficult as an Independent candidate."
He joked: "I'll be quite glad now to get my face off lampposts over the next day or two!"
The first-time councillor said: "I am looking forward to working hard and repaying the faith that those who have given their vote have shown in me."
He said a number of issues had frequently cropped up on the doorstep during the campaign.
"Certainly affordable housing is the big one, and also quality local jobs. Lots of people were telling me that they can not buy or rent a house locally – and not only young people but older folk too," he said.
Poor public transport services were another concern that had been highlighted.
Councillor Jones said: "I am quite a keen cyclist and to try and book a bike on a train is just utterly ridiculous."
He said people should be able to jump on a train to head to Inverness or south without the 'current hassles'.
The bid by Charlie Whelan (Scottish Labour), former spin doctor for Gordon Brown, to return to frontline politics, was unsuccessful.
Mr Whelan said after the count: "I was pleased to help stop the Nationalists from gaining two seats in Badenoch and Strathspey and be a very small part of Labour’s revival in Scotland."
Scottish Lib Dem candidate Declan Gallacher said he was disappointed with the result but may stand again.
He said: "In the meantime, I’m determined to carry on with me volunteering in my own community of Grantown.
“From the point of view of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, we truly had a fantastic result overall. We increased our number of councillors from 10 to 15 and we are the third largest group at the Highland Council behind the SNP and the Independents.
“The people on the Scottish Liberal Democrat team here in the Highlands are fantastic, and they will do a great job representing us all in the Highlands.
“Lastly, to our successful Badenoch and Strathspey councillors I offer my congratulations. They are all excellent choices for councillor. If I can offer any support at all then please do get in touch, and all the best for the next five years.”