Lochaber Times leader, May 5

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Last week we reported on local allegations of emails containing derogatory remarks sent to candidates contesting Lochaber ward seats in today’s local authority elections.

And just recently the Guardian newspaper reported on what it said were large numbers of candidates dropping out of UK ballot races following rising levels of abuse and harassment while out campaigning.

Racism, misogyny, religious bigotry, death threats, spitting – you name it and it seems there will be a Scottish council candidate somewhere who has had to suffer it.

In Scotland, Police Scotland is working with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on developing personal safety briefings for new councillors.

It would be worrying if news of such unpleasantness was one reason why there is no election needed in the Caol and Mallaig ward seat after only three candidates put themselves forward for election for the three vacant spots.

Or if it is why there are only five candidates contesting the four seats in the Fort William and Ardnamurchan ward.

Being a local councillor is still an often pretty thankless task. By the job’s very nature, people know who you are and usually where you live. There’s no hiding place if someone’s annoyed over an issue and blames you.

In the Caol and Mallaig and Fort William and Ardnamurchan wards, recent years have seen residents lucky enough to benefit from the dedicated service of such councillors as Allan Henderson, Denis Rixson, Andrew Baxter and Ben Thompson.

But if people are scared away from standing for election, even in such apparently tranquil wards as those we enjoy here in Lochaber, democracy is the ultimate loser.

And if democracy loses, we all lose.