THE Liberal Democrat’s Alistair Carmichael is heading back to Westminster for a third term as MP after a record-breaking election victory in the campaign for the Orkney and Shetland seat.
Mr Carmichael secured 11,989 votes – 9,928 more than second place candidate – giving him what is thought to be the largest majority ever for the northern isles constituency.
“I’m absolutely delighted that the people of Orkney and Shetland have again put their faith in the Liberal Democrats,” he said after a night-long count at Kirkwall’s Pickaquoy Centre.
“I’m told this is the biggest majority the party has ever had in the northern isles.
“The result exceeds my expectations and is truly humbling. I take it as a mandate to progress the values of our party in the new Parliament.”
After securing 62 per cent of the vote, he added that his key aim would be to protect the future wellbeing of the islands.
In the 2005 General Election he was 6,627 votes ahead of his nearest rival, Labour’s candidate at the time, Richard Meade.
While the 2010 campaign delivered a personal result to celebrate, he admitted to disappointment over the way the party has performed nationally.
“We’ve not made the advance in the number of seats I’d hoped for and that is disappointing,” Mr Carmichael said.
“But Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have run a very positive campaign and there was a very positive response to our message of fairness and change.
“This was not a bad result for the Liberal Democrats and we will live to fight another day,” he said.
Labour candidate Mark Cooper said: “I think I fought a very positive campaign and I’ve had a great team behind me.”
In particular, he paid tribute to the support of his “fantastic family” – which had given him the opportunity to fight his first campaign.
SNP veteran John Mowat, after fighting his third campaign for the Northern Isles seat, said he had been pleased to increase his personal vote.
“Because I’m not working full time now I was able to put more time and effort into the campaign,” said the former teacher. “It meant I could get up to Shetland on five occasions on the campaign trail.”
The row over the deployment of NorthLink ferries, when planes were grounded because of the Icelandic volcano dust cloud, had created plenty of argument – but he praised fellow candidates for a clean election battle.
After his second bid for the seat, Conservative Frank Nairn, said: “The surprise in this most surprising of elections is that, in the end, there was no surprise in the result here.
“But in such a safe seat, where the winner has such a huge majority, I’m glad that the battle for second place between three parties provided some excitement at the end of a very long night.”
South Ronaldsay fisherman Robert Smith, candidate for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), vowed to fight again after polling 1,222 votes.
“I’m happy enough that I trebled the vote we received at the last General Election,” he said. “It’s been great – and I’ll be back again next time.”
Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat, 11,989 votes
Mark Cooper, Labour, 2,061 votes
John Mowat, SNP, 2,042 votes
Frank Nairn, Conservative, 2,032 votes
Robert Smith, UKIP, 1,222 votes