Alistair Carmichael has voiced his “delight” at being elected as Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland for the fifth consecutive term, while his closest opponent – the SNP’s Miriam Brett – has publicly thanked those who supported her.
Mr Carmichael secured his seat with a large majority. The 11,312 votes he secured was no surprise to those attending the count, it being obvious from early on in the night that he would win.
Second-placed Ms Brett attracted 6,749 votes, while Labour’s Robina Barton came third with 2,664 – which at least put her ahead of Jamie Halcro Johnston of the Conservatives, who bagged a total of 2,024 votes.
Mr Halcro Johnston looks set to become a List MSP by the back door with a chance to replace Douglas Ross following the former Moray list MSP’s election to Westminster.
Losing their deposits were UKIP’s candidate Robert Smith, with 283 votes, and independent candidate Stuart Hill with 245.
The turnout across Orkney and Shetland was 68.26 per cent, with 23,277 valid votes cast.
Mr Carmichael said he was now looking forward to getting on with the job.
“I’m delighted. It’s not necessarily been an easy campaign, but it’s not been an easy campaign for Liberal Democrats in any part of the country. I feel I’ve got an emphatic outcome here. My majority has increased by something in excess of a factor of five.”
Looking at the picture in London, he said politics had always been a “fascinating business”. He added this parliament would be one of “the most interesting and important we’ve ever known”.
“It seems we’re going to have a Conservative government put in with DUP support on a Queen’s Speech and probably a budget.
“If you want ‘strong and stable government’, you don’t look to the DUP. Apart from anything else they haven’t exactly been remarkable for their assiduousness in their attendance in the House of Commons.
“Yes, they will form a government, yes, they will probably get their Queen’s Speech and their budget through, but I know – because I was Chief Whip for three and a half years – that you’ve got to get every vote every night. That’s where the opportunity comes for us as a party of constructive opposition.”
He said the Lib Dems had enjoyed a “really good night” in Scotland, picking up three extra seats and missing out on a fourth by just two votes.
That, said Mr Carmichael, was a “really good outcome” – although he voiced his disappointment that former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, had lost his seat. That, said Mr Carmichael, was a loss he felt “very keenly”.
Mr Carmichael insisted there was no room for a similar coalition deal like the one the party previously signed up to with he Tories.
Was that because of burnt fingers? Mr Carmichael insisted there was no basis between the main parties on which a coalition could be formed. But he added: “Experience tells me I don’t think British politics is fit for coalitions unless or until we have some constitutional reform.
“I think the first past the post system, and the way the procedures in the House of Commons work, make it very difficult to manage a coalition.”
Ms Brett, who turned 26 during the campaign, insisted she had hugely enjoyed taking part in the election, and paid tribute to those who had backed her efforts gain the Orkney and Shetland seat.
Speaking on an online video, Ms Brett said: “The election result in Orkney and Shetland has been quite disappointing, but there is a lot to be proud of. I want to start by saying a heartfelt thank you to absolutely everybody who voted for me. It means a lot.
“The last few weeks have been a really incredible experience, and meeting people the length and breadth of Orkney and Shetland has been inspiring and energising.
“I want to say thank you to everybody who went out and campaigned, who phoned relatives, who leafleted, who chapped doors. I’ve been so, so lucky to have two incredible teams behind me, and thank you to each one of them.
“Here’s hoping next time we can make history.”
Her comments came after a difficult night for the SNP, which saw its majority cut down from 56 to 35 – although that still leaves the nationalists with the second biggest majority they have ever had.
But the party lost two big heavy-weights, with former First Minister Alex Salmond and the party’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, both being voted out.
Ms Barton said politics was changing, and Labour was part of that change.
“I am actually struggling to keep a smile off my face tonight because we are seeing something quite remarkable happening, I think, across the country,” she said.
We are seeing something quite remarkable happening – ROBINA BARTON
“Seats are changing hands, in all directions, but a lot of them are going to Labour, and I think that’s a really strong sign that people are tired of austerity politics, people are tired of inequalities, and people are ready to see change.”
Mr Smith said of his votes “it was exactly what I expected”.
“It wasn’t the Lib Dems that won – it was anything but the SNP.”
Nationally he believed there was “a bit more balance in Scotland” with the loss of SNP seats. In the UK he said there were two pro-Brexit parties in first and second, though he admitted he didn’t expect the Labour surge.
“I must confess I thought the Conservatives would win but I didn’t think it would be so close and I didn’t think it would be a hung parliament. I didn’t think they would widen their majority by much.”
Mr Smith felt it was not healthy having one party being so dominant in Scotland and, what he called, the “separation question”.
“I won’t call it independence because it’s not.”
Mr Hill said he wanted to echo what Ms Barton had said about progressive politics.
“You’re seeing just the beginning of what is going to be possible, and these next few months, years, I think you will see a complete change in politics throughout the world.”