The two councillors in Aberdeenshire's Democratic Independent and Green Group (DIGG) – Paul Johnston and Martin Ford – are both seeking re-election to Aberdeenshire Council on May 4.
Cllr Johnston (Democratic Independent) is standing in and currently represents the Mid-Formartine ward. Cllr Ford (Green) is standing in and currently represents the East Garioch ward.
Both Paul Johnston and Martin Ford are experienced councillors. Cllr Johnston has been a member of Aberdeenshire Council since 1995 and before that served as a Grampian Region councillor. Cllr Ford has been a member of Aberdeenshire Council since 1999.
As the DIGG, Martin Ford and Paul Johnston have had a big influence on Aberdeenshire Council, punching well above their weight for a group of just two councillors.
The DIGG played a particularly crucial role when in 2015 changes in allegiance by other councillors meant neither of the two large councillor groupings on Aberdeenshire Council had enough councillors to form an administration that could run the Council. Rather than join either side, the DIGG reached an agreement to give limited support to the incoming minority administration, bringing stability to the Council. In return, the new administration committed to supporting a range of policies and other changes put forward by the DIGG.
Benefits and other changes secured by the DIGG since 2015 include: a new budget of £100,000 for youth work; for the first time, public consultation on specific budget proposals to inform the Council's budget decisions; a new budget of £150,000 for 'traffic calming and speeding reduction'; no cuts to community learning and development funding; additional investment by the Council in renewable energy generation by solar panels on Council building to reduce future energy bills and cut greenhouse gas emissions; additional funding for active travel (cycling and walking).
The DIGG also secured Council support for work to examine the feasibility of re-opening the Buchan railway to at least Ellon, and for the Council setting an annual carbon budget to help it meet climate change targets.
Cllr Martin Ford said: "It's been an eventful five years since 2012 and the DIGG has made a real difference to what the Council has done.
"Particularly noteworthy locally has been the completion of the major extension to Kemnay Academy and the new Kintore Midmill School. And the Council gave important support to getting the Axis Centre built in Newmachar and The Bothie in Kintore. These are all welcome improvements.
"It has always been a privilege to represent the area where I live on the Council. I'm keen to continue working for the good of the area and so am standing for election again on 4 May."
Cllr Paul Johnston said: "Thanks to all those who have encouraged me to run again and seek re-election to Aberdeenshire Council.
"I am happy to stand on local issues as this is not a national election. It's not about brexit or indyref. It is about housing, roads and paths in our towns and villages. It's about teacher shortages in our schools and protecting our environment and creating great places to live. It's about improving how our Council engages with its community councils and citizens everywhere. I have fought for all that with some successes, but I recognise there is a lot more to do."