It was the perfect birthday present for Tavish Scott as he won a decisive majority in yesterday’s Scottish Election, securing a fifth term as Shetland MSP at Holyrood.
The Liberal Democrat secured 7,440 votes, convincingly defeating his main SNP rival Danus Skene, who polled just 2,545.
Labour’s Robina Barton managed to stay ahead of Conservative candidate Cameron Smith to take third place, with 651 votes against Mr Smith’s 405.
The total number of votes cast across the constituency was 11,087, with a percentage turn-out of 62.3 per cent.
Mr Scott, who has served the isles since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, immediately slammed the SNP for “taking voters for granted” after his victory.
The result comes as a marked improvement for Mr Scott, as he managed to secure 3,000 more votes than he did during the 2011 Scottish elections. At that time his nearest rival was independent candidate, Billy Fox, who actually received 300 more votes than Mr Skene did in yesterday’s poll.
Mr Scott’s win followed a victory earlier in the evening for Orkney’s Lib Dem candidate Liam McArthur, who secured 67 per cent of the vote in his home constituency. Mr Scott polled a remarkably similar 67.1 per cent of the vote.
Speaking immediately after the declaration at the Clickimin Centre, Mr Scott said Shetland had sent a clear message – “we’re not for Nicola”.
He added: “The SNP have taken voters for granted – not just here but right across Scotland.
“People don’t like being taken for granted and it’s time some people in their party realised that.
“Above all I want to declare that, Nicola, you don’t need dodgy opinion polls to predict if you can win a second referendum. You just need to listen to people, and people here have spoken – and spoken very clearly.”
Mr Scott thanked returning officer Jan Riise and his staff for running “a commendable operation”.
Mr Skene was standing as a parliamentary candidate for the SNP for the second consecutive year. In last year’s Westminster campaign he massively reduced Alistair Carmichael’s majority to just 817. This time round it was a different story, however.
He said: “It’s interesting, that last year in the Westminster election I came far closer than … expected, and this year there’s a gap that needs explanation. We will all go away and think about that and work on it.
“But Shetland having persisted with Lib Dem … I sincerely hope something of the purpose and soul of the tradition represented by liberalism returns and achieves a meaningful delivery.”
The result was actually not much of a surprise at the end of the day. Long before the declaration was made, early indications were that Mr Scott would secure a convincing win.
Speaking before the announcement, Mr Scott said he was “gratified” that the support had been so strong.
He said moves by Ms Sturgeon to secure a second independence referendum had “rebounded hugely” against the SNP in the isles. And he said there would be a “very strong desire” to see the SNP deliver.
Mr Scott said: “I’ve been everywhere and I’ve talked about the issues people want action on – to cut ferry fares, improving our broadband services, investing in schools and making sure our health service is all that it can be.”
He said the Lib Dems had run a campaign based on attracting new voters “to the Liberal cause”. That, together with a social media based “Tav-TV” campaign which proved to be a draw for younger people, was particularly relevant given that 16 and 17-year-olds were able to vote in a Scottish election for the first time.
So what did those youngsters make of the experience? Pupils from Anderson High School were attending the count.
Lerwick pupil Eve Thomson said she had been less than impressed by the SNP government at Edinburgh, although she had enjoyed being able to attend the count.
“It’s been a really exciting experience. It’s been really interesting to see how it all comes together, and I’ve really enjoyed it.
“I don’t think it’s great that we’re sort of becoming a one-party state,” she added. “I’d like to see a bit more democracy and a bit more variety.”
Alec Henry said voting for the first time was “definitely an empowering experience” as it gave you a say in what was happening.
Earlier, Ms Barton and Mr Smith both said they had enjoyed being part of a positive campaign.
Following the constituency result the regional list voting in Shetland was announced, with the Liberal Democrats coming first with 3,937 votes.
In second place was the SNP with 2,932 while the Conservatives polled 1,197 and the Labour Party 1,003.
Then came the Greens with 736, independent Orkney-based candidate James Stockan with 701, Ukip with 301, the Scottish Christian Party with 116, Rise with 85 and Solidarity with 33.
That result, along with the others in the Highlands and Islands region, left the area with three Conservative list MSPs, two Labour, one SNP and one Green.
• For more reaction from all the candidates see next week’s Shetland Times.