The Liberal Democrats have held on to their seat in the Shetland by-election, despite the Scottish National Party (SNP) winning a record number of votes.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s party mounted a strong campaign ahead of polling day as she made several visits to the area.
SNP candidate Tom Wills took 3,822 votes, with a 14.4% swing from the Lib Dems to the SNP.
However, Beatrice Wishart won 5,659 votes to become the first female MSP elected to represent Shetland.
Ms Wishart said she was honoured to “to make a little bit of history” after the “roller coaster” campaign.
She added: “Shetland has once again rejected Scottish nationalism and shown that it has not been taken in by the bullying tactics.
“My work will start on Monday to get the Scottish government to take action on its empty promises for fair ferry funding, to improve nursery provision, mental health care, broadband – the key strands of my positive campaign for Shetland.”
The by-election was called after the resignation of Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott.
Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland, said Ms Wishart had fought a “fantastic campaign”.
He added: “There’s no doubt she will be a first-rate member of the Scottish Parliament for Shetland.
“This must be a bitter disappointment for the Scottish nationalists. Just last week Nicola Sturgeon was here for her third visit in a month, telling us it was going to be neck-and-neck.
“If that was neck-and-neck, all I can say is that’s some neck.”
The former Scottish secretary added: “I think people in Shetland were threatened by the SNP, they sought to misrepresent the fantastic work that Tavish Scott did for Shetland over 20 years, and I think they have frankly had a pretty harsh judgement.”
Mr Scott, who stood down from Holyrood to take up a new post with Scottish Rugby, the governing body for rugby union in Scotland, had held the Shetland constituency for the Liberal Democrats since the Scottish parliament was created in 1999.
Despite the Lib Dems’ win, Mr Wills said he was encouraged by the SNP’s increase in votes.
He said: “In a matter of weeks we have taken Shetland from being Scotland’s safest seat to one of the SNP’s top targets in 2021.
“It’s a truly remarkable achievement and we are all determined to build on this result over the next 18 months.”
Mr Wills added: “We’ve achieved our best ever result in Shetland and the increase in our vote is hugely encouraging – after 12 years in government, we have given the Lib Dems a run for their money in what was the safest seat in Scotland.
“We take every election seriously and made a point of trying to speak to as many voters in Shetland as possible – and what this extraordinary result shows it that every seat in Scotland is now winnable for the SNP.”
Independent candidate Ryan Thomson came third, with 1,286 votes, ahead of Conservative Brydon Goodlad on 425, Green candidate Debra Nicolson on 189 and Labour’s Johan Adamson on 152.
Independent candidates Michael Stout, Ian Scott and Peter Tait received 134, 66 and 31 votes respectively, while UKIP candidate Stuart Martin secured 60 votes.
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