IT'S almost always Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire that grab the headlines when there are job losses in the North Sea oil and gas industry, but for Angus the impact can be even more devastating.
Last week global services giant National Oilwell Varco announced that it was seeking to lay off almost half of its 140-strong workforce at its Merpro site in Montrose.
That news came just three months after GE paid off 36 staff at its nearby site in Montrose, and these redundancies have shown that Angus has not escaped the effects of the drop in oil prices.
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Pro rata, such job losses have a bigger effect on the local economy than they would in Aberdeen.
Angus Council past and present has been able do little about the reductions in the oil and gas industry, but no doubt would point to the fact that had Montrose not developed as a North Sea industry port in its own right, only a few oil and gas jobs would have been created in the area.
In common with every other local authority in Scotland having to deal with Westminster-inspired cuts, Angus Council has had to reduce its spending over the past few years, during an SNP administration.
Efficiency measures have seen millions of pounds saved from the council budget, but the council was still able to promote an apprenticeship scheme that has seen at least some young people find employment and a trade.
There is no disguising the effects of the cuts, however, especially as the authority – in common with others across the country – has had to move schools on to a four-and-a-half- day week.
One council source described the efforts to save money as “slimming down the back office while trying to preserve the front line”, and there’s no doubt all of the candidates see the budget reductions and their effects as the biggest local issues.
The question is: who can convince the people of Angus that they will best manage the changes?
The SNP group suffered a severe blow when the much-respected Provost Helen Oswald died of cancer last October at the age of 69. Her home town of Carnoustie will see seven candidates – including the three incumbent independents – fight for three seats on the council, but all of them would no doubt concede that Helen Oswald is irreplaceable.
Alex King, the council’s finance chief, took over as Provost and he will stand again in Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim ward.
Council leader Ian Gaul is standing down, but his wife Jeanette will stand again in Kirriemuir and Dean.
Local expectation is that even with ward boundary changes, the SNP will again be the largest party on the council, and at least two independents have already stated they will help form an administration with whichever party wins the greatest number of seats.
Derek Wann is seen as a strong Conservative contender but one candidate whose name on the list has caused a minor stir is Braden Davy, who is standing in Forfar as a Conservative and Unionist candidate. That is the same Braden Davy who stood for the Scottish Labour Party against Alex Salmond in Gordon less than two years ago in the 2015 General Election, when he came fourth of five candidates.
Davy is currently office head for Ross Thompson, Tory list MSP for North East Scotland, and says he left Labour for the Conservatives because his former party had started contemplating backing independence.
Only the SNP, with 15 candidates, had originally put forward enough to win outright control of the 28-member council, but candidate Paul Wright left the party after he was found to have posted “inappropriate” images on Twitter. He is standing as an independent, with the SNP blanking him from their election material.
The SNP will hope to win all 14 seats but almost certainly will have to enter into a coalition, which makes it interesting that in Angus, the second-largest block of candidates is not the Conservatives (eight), or Liberal Democrats (eight), or Labour (seven) but the 14-strong Independents.
Which brings us to a question that is not unique to Angus – just how independent are these independents in Scottish local authorities?
People in Forfar and elsewhere in Angus are well aware of the family connections and previous party affiliations of some independent candidates.
That is one of the points about local people taking an interest in local democracy – at the local level, people tend to “ken wha yer faither is”, and a lot more else beside.