Welcome to Shetland News’ live broadcast of the Shetland by-election 2019 count for the seat recently vacated by long-standing MSP Tavish Scott, who comfortably held the seat for 20 years.
Expectation is that it will be a close race for Scotland’s most northerly constituency. Counting of postal votes at the Clickimin Centre commenced at 10pm, with the first boxes arriving by 10.15pm.
2.40am: The declaration has been made and Beatrice Wishart has succeeded in holding onto the seat for the Lib Dems despite a strong challenge from the SNP’s Tom Wills. The result cements the Lib Dems’ seemingly unshakeable position in Shetland politics despite the SNP throwing everything but the proverbial kitchen sink into their campaign.
Wishart is the first female representative Shetland has returned to any parliament by a first past the post election.
The results are as follows: Beatrice Wishart, Scottish Liberal Democrats 5,659 votes (47.82 per cent); Tom Wills, Scottish National Party 3,822 votes (32.29 per cent); Ryan Thomson, independent 1,286 votes (10.87 per cent); Peter Tait, independent 31 votes (0.26 per cent); Michael Stout, independent 134 votes (1.13 per cent); Ian Scott, independent 66 votes (0.56 per cent); Debra Nicolson, Scottish Green Party 189 votes (1.6 per cent); Stuart Martin, UKIP 60 votes (0.51 per cent); Brydon Goodlad, Conservative and Unionist Party 425 votes (3.59 per cent); Johan Adamson, Scottish Labour and Co-operative Party 152 votes (1.28 per cent).
2.25am: Turnout figures confirm the trend of rural voters being more engaged with the electoral process than their town counterparts. The highest turnout of 77 per cent was recorded at Uyeasound in Unst with a 77 per cent return compared with a low of 52 per cent at one of the Lerwick Gilbertson Hall’s voting stations, which was only matched by Mossbank.
2.10am: The word is now that the declaration will be made around 2.30am.
1.44am: With the count nearing conclusion, the buzz seems to be that the Lib Dems have succeeded in holding on to the seat, but the official result has yet to be revealed.
1.24am: Now it is the turn of the other strong challenger, the SNP’s Tom Wills, to enter the Clickimin centre.
12.50am: One of the front runners, Lib Dem candidate Beatrice Wishart, has arrived with her entourage. The count appears to be progressing quicker than expected.
12.25am: Returning officer Jan Riise has just announced voting figures of 11,835 – or 66.5 per cent of the electorate. The postal vote of 2,414 was a whopping return of 83 per cent and 9,421 ballot papers were cast at station, a 63 per cent return.
More votes have been cast at this by-election than in the 2016 election, an extraordinary engagement.
12.10am: This election has seen unprecedented involvement of young voters both at the ballot box and the hustings process.
Seventeen year old MSYP Leighton Anderson said that the election has encouraged him to consider a future in politics.
He said: “This has been quite entertaining and it is my first time at an election count and first time voting as well.”
Anderson was second to vote at his local Boddam Hall and said that the hustings and engagement with local media had helped him make up his mind.
“The media had also helped disseminate the views of the youth parliamentarians to a wider audience,” he said.
Fellow MSYP Jonathan Dorrat was likewise voting in his first election. He said that being able to pitch questions to the individual candidates had been a helpful exercise.
Anderson High School pupils Abby Sandison and Ellie Copland likewise declared attendance at the count an “exciting experience”.
S3 pupil at Brae High School Anna McDowall said: “I think it’s kind of exiting because it could be a big change from 70 years of the Lib Dems.”
11.45pm: The head of the Electoral Commission in Scotland, Andy O’Neill, is observing the by-election count at the Clickimin Centre.
The commission is regulating and overlooking elections in Scotland ensuring consistency and transparency of the electoral process as laid down in electoral law.
Praising returning officer Jan Riise and his team for the way elections and the counts have been conducted in Shetland, O’Neill said by elections were always interesting events that he was keen to visit if possible.
11.10pm: SNP Highlands and Islands MSP Maree Todd has been in Shetland all week and she said she was enormously proud of the campaign by her party.
Todd added: “I know there was been a big swing towards us during the campaign, but this is the safest seat in Scotland and there are ten candidates.
“Tom (Wills) has made an excellent contribution. The people we engaged with on the doorsteps were giving a lot of compliments and have been very much involved in the democratic exercise.”
10.45pm: Independent candidate Ryan Thomson, a councillor for the North Isles, expects to gain more votes from rural areas and has said he greatly enjoyed the campaign – widely seen as a two-horse race between the Lib Dems and SNP.
Thomson said: “The feedback was incredibly positive. Quite a few folk were saying that they would have voted for me, but they would have to vote tactically and that has been the biggest challenge – convincing them to vote with their head or their heart, rather than vote tactically.”
Another independent, Ian Scott, also an SIC councillor, was similarly enthusiastic about campaigning, especially the Brae High School hustings on Tuesday afternoon.
“If even two or three of the young folk go away thinking slightly differently, that’s a job done,” he said.
Scottish Labour candidate Johan Adamson, a first time candidate, conceded that she is unlikely to win her native seat, but that was always going to be the case in such a Lib Dem stronghold.
“I feel I have got a lot to offer, but it was always going to be a difficult enough task to change the majority the Liberals have in Shetland,” she said.