SCOTTISH Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott had his overwhelming domination of the Shetland constituency severely dented during Thursday’s Scottish elections, when his majority fell by 20 per cent.
During a disastrous night for the party nationally, which they are blaming on the UK coalition government, some party members were suggesting that Shetland and Orkney could be the only constituencies the party holds in this Parliament.
Independent candidate Billy Fox, who won 30 per cent of the vote, said that he hoped Thursday night’s results reflected a change in island politics and it was time to move on from the legacy of Jo Grimond.
SNP candidate Jean Urquhart, from Ullapool, who flew into the islands just three weeks ago came third, saying she was thrilled her party had done so well in the regional vote in Shetland coming just 10 per cent behind the Liberal Democrats.
Labour’s Jamie Kerr held his party’s share of the vote from 2007, when it did not do well. However he said the energetic campaign had given his party a boost in the islands.
Tory candidate Sandy Cross was the most disappointed man on the night, losing his deposit with just 3.5 per cent of the vote, the first time in living memory the Conservatives have done so poorly in the islands which they represented at Westminster 60 years ago.
The results came out around 3.30am and showed that the turnout was down to 53.9 per cent, from 57.1 per cent four years ago. This caused much surprise, as it had been expected that Mr Fox’s candidacy would have increased voting numbers.
In 2007 Mr Scott, who had been serving in government as transport minister and delivered the extremely popular Air Discount Scheme, achieved one of the biggest ever island majority with 67 per cent.
On Thursday this was reduced to 47.5 per cent, with the blame being laid squarely at the door of the UK coalition, though Mr Scott promised that his party would recover from the crisis.
“I think national factors had an impact on my share of the vote, but my share of the vote is still above what I got in 2003. I am very pleased about that and I am very pleased about the way we fought the campaign. I don’t think we have a lot to apologise about.
“I also came under attack from the other candidates. They appeared to me to hunt as a pack and I think that was evident from the hustings. I am glad that we withstood that and ultimately prevailed.”
The most vocal support during the campaign was behind Billy Fox, with many believing that he could actually take the seat.
Mr Fox said that he believed his campaign had made a difference. “For an independent candidate to come such a credible second against the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in the safest seat in Scotland must send out a message that there’s a mood for change in Shetland.”
The other parties said that Mr Fox had been the major cause for their poor performance.
Mrs Urquhart left the Clickimin Leisure Complex a happy woman with her party’s performance nationally and regionally.
“We are winning across Scotland and I am thrilled about that. Shetland was an unusual election with the advent of an independent taking so many votes from all of us, but one day Shetland will see the light.”
Mr Kerr said the Labour vote could have been a lot worse. “People commented on how energetic the campaign was and there’s obviously dissatisfaction with the coalition government. That vote moved away from Tavish and unfortunately it’s gone to Billy and not the Labour Party.”
He added that he did not think the support for Mr Fox represented the level of opposition to the wind farm.
This view was not shared by Mr Cross, who said that many Tory supporters did not want to see a wind farm built in Shetland and had supported the independent.
“I think the wind farm issue has split the Tory vote. I have enjoyed the campaign and I hope that my party in it has contributed to the overall political discussion in the islands and everyone has been very friendly. But I am disappointed.”
In the regional elections the SNP did extremely well, coming less than 300 votes behind the Liberal Democrats. The Scottish Green Party came third.
Sandy Cross, Conservative 330 (3.5%)
Billy Fox, independent 2,845 (30%)
Jamie Kerr, Labour 620 (6.6%)
Tavish Scott, Liberal Democrat 4,462 (47.5%)
Jean Urquhart, SNP 1,134 (12%)
For full results of how Shetland voted as part of the Highlands and Islands regional list, please click here. Declaration of Highlands and islands list MSP sare expected later on Friday afternoon.
Photos: Tavish Scott winning his fourth election to the Scottish Parliament in the early hours of Friday – Photos: Malcolm Younger, Millgaet Media