General Election 2017: Liberal Democrats shock win in Highlands

Alistair Carmichael. Picture: Greg Macvean
Alistair Carmichael. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE Conservatives in the Highlands, as across the majority of Scotland, saw a huge increase in their popularity - but it was the Lib Dems who caused the biggest shock in the region.

While the SNP managed to hold on to two of the three seats in the north, they lost out to the Liberals in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

It is a seat that has traditionally been held by the Lib Dems and was held by Lord John Thurso for years until the 2015 election which saw the SNP’s Paul Monaghan win by a massive majority of almost 4,000.

But Highland councillor and former MSP Jamie Stone snatched the most northerly mainland constituency back for the Lib Dems.

There was jubilation among the party faithful, but despondency in the SNP ranks, despite them retaining Ross, Skye and Lochaber as well as Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey.

The victory for Mr Stone was put down to two reasons by the new MP - widespread public opposition to Indyref2 and outrage at health cuts at Caithness General Hospital, where they are downgrading the maternity unit from a consultant-led service to midwife-led.

READ MORE: Live Blog: General Election 2017 results from across Scotland

This will see the majority of pregnant mothers facing a 200-mile journey to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for births.

Many locals, including Mr Stone, put the blame for the cut firmly at the door of the SNP, and Mr Monaghan suffered severe heckling at a recent hustings.

A delighted Mr Stone said: “People see the SNP failed them when it comes to the health issues at Caithness Maternity.

“I promised I would raise the issue in my maiden speech should I win and I will be giving it my priority. I am not going to sit back and say nothing when I am in Parliament.”

He added: “I am delighted to have won. I came into politics because of [former Lib Dem leader] Charles Kennedy.

“He encouraged me to get into politics and to stand as an MSP in the Scottish Parliament. He was a great politician and I mourn his death. I was completely convinced by him and will carry on his work.”

Mr Stone beat the SNP’s Paul Monaghan by a majority of 2,044, winning 11,061 votes.

Liberal Democrat former Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael held on to his Orkney and Shetland seat.

As he was re-elected, he said the vote across Scotland shows “there’s no appetite for a second independence referendum”.

He added: “That is an idea that should be taken off the table.”

Meanwhile, it was not all bad news for the nationalists.

Drew Hendry, a former leader of Highland Council, said results for the party across the country were disappointing.

But he added: “The opposition parties fought a single-issue race in Scotland, opposing Indyref2, which appears to have influenced many people.

“I am delighted to have been re-elected and feel proud that I concentrated on issues that affect my constituency, particularly the impact of Universal Credit.”

He won with 21,042 votes, a majority of 4,924 ahead of Nicholas Tulloch who improved the showing for the Conservatives in the constituency, coming second with 16,118 votes.

The SNP also retained their seat in Ross, Skye and Cromarty, with defending MP Ian Blackford winning with 15,480 votes.

The Conservatives came second with candidate Robert Mackenzie getting 9,561 votes.

Mr Blackford said: “My promise is that I will represent all voters in this constituency to the best of my policy.

“We have had a degree of negativity in this campaign with others wanting to campaign on the issue of the Independence referendum.

“I will be fighting to ensure we remain part of Europe. At the end of the Brexit process the people of Scotland have a right to have a say about remaining in Europe.

“We will not be dragged out of Europe against our wishes.”

READ MORE: In full: General Election 2017 Scottish seat results