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Carmichael re-elected with increased majority

ALISTAIR Carmichael will extend his 16-year stint as Orkney and Shetland’s MP after greatly increasing his majority and comfortably winning Thursday’s election.

The Liberal Democrat, who has represented the Northern Isles since 2001, received almost 49 per cent of the votes to clearly beat the SNP’s Miriam Brett, who had been expected to put up a strong fight.

Carmichael used his victory speech to point to national results – such as the SNP losing more than 20 of its 56 seats – to proclaim that there was “no appetite” for a second independence referendum in the country.

It was an upturn in popularity for Carmichael, who had a majority of just 817 at the last election 2015 as he narrowly ousted the SNP’s late Danus Skene.

Labour’s Robina Barton provided something of a minor upset by beating the Conservatives’ Jamie Halcro Johnston, who had been expected to gain support from Shetland’s fishing community for his focus on the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

Johnston, however, looks set to become an MSP after fellow Conservative Douglas Ross, who represents the Highlands and Islands at Holyrood, became an MP for Moray – with Johnston the next in line to take his seat.

Twenty six year old Brett, who has worked for a policy advisor for the SNP, had been expected to run Carmichael close.

But it was the Lib Dem who had the last laugh with polling 11,312 votes, easily trumping Brett’s 6,749 votes.

A total of 23,320 votes were cast to provide a turnout figure of 68.26 per cent, an increase from 65.8 per cent in 2015.

Carmichael told Shetland News that he was “enormously grateful” to those to voted for him.

“I always felt that this was a campaign that we could win. I’ve never taken any vote in any election for granted, and I certainly wasn’t going to start this time with a majority of 817,” he said.

“I felt we had a strong campaign. I didn’t ever feel that we were ever seriously under pressure.”

He added that the SNP’s weaknesses included “the way in which they have treated the Northern Isles” over the years and the way they are now “treating our fishermen, our farmers and our crofters.”

During his victory speech, Carmichael said the idea of Scottish independence now needed to be taken off the agenda.

“Across the United Kingdom, I think it’s fair to say that the people have spoken but it’s not yet clear what they have said,” he said.

“One thing I think is clear though, as we see seats changing hands across Scotland, there is no appetite now for a second independence referendum and that is an idea which should be taken off the table.”

When asked if she would run again for parliament – either for Westminster or Holyrood – Brett told Shetland News that the campaign was a “hugely inspiring process” and has not put her off standing again.

She added that she felt there wasn’t one “defining issue” which won or lost the election, although the SNP came under some criticism in areas such as failing to confirm reduced NorthLink ferry fares.

It is thought that Carmichael won in every ward in Shetland, despite many suggesting that Brett may have proved popular in her home isles.

Labour’s Barton received 2,664 votes – an improvement on the 2015 election – while Tory candidate Johnston got 2,024 votes as the Conservatives slipped to fourth place.

UKIP’s Robert Smith managed to land 283 votes, while maverick campaigner Stuart Hill – who did not want to sit as MP if elected – only received 245.

Shetland News reported live from the count at Kirkwall Grammar School as it happened. Read back at how the events unfolded here.