LIBERAL Democrat MSP Tavish Scott has comfortably batted off the challenge of the SNP to book himself another term representing Shetland at Holyrood.
It was clear from an early stage at the Clickimin Bowls Hall on Thursday night that SNP candidate Danus Skene had not been able to get close to ousting Scott, who was able to celebrate his 50th birthday with a resounding victory.
When it was announced that Liam McArthur had held his Orkney seat for the Lib Dems with a thumping 67 per cent vote share, any lingering doubts about Shetland’s political destiny were extinguished.
Scott won an identical percentage share in Shetland, pulling 7,440 out of 11,087 votes cast – leaving a yawning chasm between him and second-placed Skene, who won 2,545 votes and a 23 per cent share.
Labour’s Robina Barton won 651 votes (6 per cent), while the Tories’ Cameron Smith won 405 votes (4 per cent).
Skene was always going to improve on Jean Urquhart’s 2011 vote share of 12 per cent, with that year’s result skewed by the presence of independent Billy Fox on the ballot paper. But the SNP fell some way short of the 36 per cent proportion who voted Yes in the September 2014 independence referendum.
Shortly after the Lib Dem arrived at the count at around 1am on Friday morning, Skene conceded defeat with a handshake.
Turnout in the poll was up from 54 per cent five years ago to 62 per cent.
The gap between the Lib Dems (3,937 votes, 36 per cent) and the SNP (2,932 votes, 27 per cent) was much smaller in Shetland on the regional list vote.
Scott said there was a clear message for Nicola Sturgeon that she does not need “dodgy opinion polls” to tell her when to hold another independence referendum – she “just needs to speak to people”.
“Shetland has spoken very decisively – we are not for Nicola,” a jubilant Scott said in his acceptance speech.
“The SNP have taken voters for granted, not just here but right across Scotland.”
Skene, meanwhile, acknowledged that his campaign had been hampered by his recovery from illness, meaning the SNP “didn’t get full energy from your candidate”.
“It’s interesting, isn’t it, that last year in the Westminster election I came far closer than I would have expected, and this year there is a gad that needs explanation.
“We’ll all go away and think about that and work on it, but Shetland having assisted with Lib Dem representation tonight, I sincerely hope that something of the purpose and sole of the tradition represented by liberalism is recovered and achieves meaningful delivery of results in Shetland.”
The seven elected Highlands and Islands list MSPs were announced in Inverness at around 7.30am on Friday morning. They are:
- Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
- Rhoda Grant, Scottish Labour Party
- Edward Mountain, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
- Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
- John Finnie, Scottish Green Party
- Maree Todd, Scottish National Party (SNP)
- David Stewart, Scottish Labour Party
The turnout for the Highlands and Islands Regional list was 59.1%. Votes given were
- RISE Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism (889)
- Scottish Christian Party (3,407)
- Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (44,693)
- Scottish Green Party (14,781
- Scottish Labour Party (22,894)
- Scottish Liberal Democrats (27,223)
- Scottish National Party (SNP) (81,600)
- Solidarity – Scotland’s Socialist Movement (793)
- UK Independence Party (UKIP) (5,344)
- STOCKAN, James Wilson Independent (3,689)
The Shetland voting breakdown on the Highlands and Islands list was as follows:
- RISE – 85 votes
- Christians – 116 votes
- Conservatives – 1,197 votes
- Greens – 736 votes
- Labour – 1,003
- Lib Dems – 3,937
- SNP – 2,932
- Solidarity – 33
- UKIP – 301
- James Stockan (independent) – 701