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Election / Lib Dems hold Orkney and Shetland seat with reduced majority

Alistair Carmichael won a sixth term in parliament with 10,381 votes. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

ALISTAIR Carmichael has been re-elected to represent Orkney and Shetland in the UK parliament for the sixth time since 2001.

The Liberal Democrat received just over 44.6 per cent of the vote, beating his SNP challenger Robert Leslie comfortably by about 2,500 votes.

The Conservatives’ Jennifer Fairbairn came third with 2,287 votes (9.84 per cent) followed by Labour’s Coilla Drake (1,550 votes – 6.67 per cent), Robert Smith of the Brexit Party (900 -3.87 per cent) and independent candidate David Barnard (168 votes – 0.72 per cent).

Carmichael said he was delighted by the confidence the local electorate continued to put in him but was disappointed by the Lib Dems’ poor national result.

He said policy issues and campaigning techniques now needed to be reviewed, but the MP categorically ruled himself out as a contender in any leadership contest after party leader Jo Swinson lost her East Dunbartonshire seat.

SNP man Robert Leslie, meanwhile, said he had thoroughly enjoyed the campaign and was ready for more, be it for Holyrood or Westminister.

Carmichael said: “People know how I do the job. They know that when they need help they will find me, I will be accessible and approachable, and I will give them every assistance.

“People know when there is a particular need for the isles that needs to be articulated, then I will do that.”

Carmichael accepted that nationally the result for the party was hugely disappointing. 

“We need to take a long hard look at some of the political positioning, and at some of the campaign techniques,” he said. “If you are serious about your politics then these issues matter, because that ultimately determines the outcome.

“So, yes, we need to be serious and thorough and look what we did and could have done better.”

Referring to the electoral system that systematically disadvantages smaller parties such as the Lib Dems, Carmichael called on all the opposition parties to work together against what looks like a solid Tory majority.

“I we are not going to change the electoral system then people who are progressive in politics will have to find a way of working together over the next five years because otherwise there will be very little that will mitigate the hardship of Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street with a majority government.

“I have been working with Labour and SNP over the years. The one caveat that I would put in it is that I don’t think that when it comes to the really big issues like independence and Brexit, I don’t think you can go to the table with preconditions.”

Robert Leslie, meanwhile, said he “thoroughly enjoyed the campaign”.

“I leaned a lot, I had a fantastic team around me, and the messages of support and goodwill from people on Orkney and Shetland have been brilliant,” he said.

“The number of seats for the SNP have gone up again, and I think it is enough to say that the people of Scotland have put their trust in the SNP again and I think an independence referendum is now on the cards – and I am looking forward to seeing Scotland as an independent country within Europe.”