THE Conservatives have comfortably held on to their Lomond North councillor place following Thursday's Argyll and Bute Council by-election in the area - but the winning candidate couldn't be at the count to celebrate his success.

Paul Collins was declared the winner around 90 minutes after the polls closed.

Council chief executive Pippa Milne announced the result at around 11.30pm at the Helensburgh and Lomond Civic Centre, where the votes were counted.

Mr Collins, from Rosneath, was elected at the fourth stage of the 'single transferable vote' process after he polled 742 first preference votes, with SNP candidate Ken Smith second on 459.

Two independent candidates, Mark Irvine and Robert MacIntyre, polled 418 and 204 first preference votes respectively.

The turnout for the by-election - which was called after the resignation of Conservative councillor Barbara Morgan for personal reasons in October - was 29.6 per cent, and there were 19 rejected ballot papers.

Mr Collins will serve alongside independent George Freeman and the SNP's Iain Shonny Paterson until the next full council election, due to be held on Thursday, May 6.

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It's the Conservatives' second by-election win in the Helensburgh and Lomond area this year. 

Gemma Penfold triumphed in a by-election in the Helensburgh and Lomond South ward in March, in a poll caused by the death of long-serving Liberal Democrat councillor for the area Ellen Morton in October 2020.

In their remarks after the Lomond North declaration on Thursday evening, all three unsuccessful candidates hinted that they may return to contest next year's poll.

But illness meant Mr Collins was unable to attend the count in person, with his party colleague, former Lomond North councillor and ex West of Scotland MSP Maurice Corry, speaking on his behalf after the result was declared.

Mr Corry said: "I am delighted to see Paul win. We'd like to thank all those who voted for him throughout the ward on his behalf.

"It was a very fair by-election to be done in the circumstances. The team worked well together and some of them are here tonight.

"We wish Paul well for his recovery, and look forward to seeing him in harness.

"Thanks to the staff at the polling stations who have done a brilliant job, along with those here at the count and the police and security staff, and drivers picking up the ballot boxes.

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"I know it means a lot to Paul - he is a local man and says thank you to everybody. Thanks also to the candidates for the work they put in to make it such a fair race."

All the other candidates were given an opportunity to speak after the declaration, with Mr Irvine, a member of Cove and Kilcreggan Community Council, saying: "Thanks to all staff - it has been a great experience.

"I will be back in May, wiser and better armed. Congratulations to Paul."

Mr MacIntyre, who served as a councillor for the ward from 2012 to 2017 and is currently convener of Rosneath and Clynder Community Council, said: "Thank you to all involved, and to everybody for their comments.

"It will only be six months until we are here again. Thank you also to Maurice for his comments."

Mr Smith said: "Thank you to the returning officer and staff for all that you have done.

"I want to congratulate Paul and to thank all people who supported me in this election. We look forward to May."

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