CONSERVATIVE MSP Alexander Burnett staged one of the great upsets of the Holyrood 2016 election in the heart of the Aberdeenshire countryside.
Mr Burnett first entered politics just a year ago when he stood in the General Election and. although coming second, said he knew he could take the seat of Aberdeenshire West from the SNP.
Mr Burnett, a landowner and businessman in Banchory, has now delivered one of the most dramatic results of the election and secured 38.1 per cent of the vote - pushing SNP’s Dennis Robertson into second place.
He pushed the Conservative share of the vote went up by 17 per cent while the SNP share went down 7 per cent.
He is now the first every Tory to represent the area - and said his victory was driven in part by doorstep opposition to a second referendum.
Mr Burnett, a father of three, said: “From the very beginning after the general election I knew it was a constituency we could win.
“ After beating the Liberals and the incumbent Robert Smith, who had been around for 18 years, it just showed us where the unionist vote lay.”
“This part of Scotland especially voted to stay in the UK, and they wanted a party to stand up for that.”
Mr Burnett, a member of the wealthy Burnett of Leys family, who own large parts of Banchory and whose family seat was Crathes Castle, said the constitution was repeatedly raised on the doorstep but that rural concerns were also key.
He said the agricultural community had not recovered from delays in farmers receiving EU payments through the Scottish Government, with millions of pounds still outstanding.
Mr Burnett said: “I think the constitutional issue a make part of it but a lot of other things going on in the North East which has led to huge dissatisfaction with the SNP.
“Farmers are not getting their payments - my constituency is a huge rural constituency - and the problem affects not just farmers but seed farmers, machinery salesmen. The whole chain in agriculture has been affected by this and the agricultural chain has not recovered from that and the SNP still hasn’t sorted it out.”
Mr Burnett said he had “knocked on a lot of doors and spoken to a lot of people” since standing in the General Election last year. Then, his candidacy was endorsed by Chancellor George Osborne on a personal visit.
He added: “The general election was first ever campaign and I learnt quickly on the job. I knew the important thing was to speak to a lot of people and explain to them what we felt was going wrong in the north east. We feel that the North East is being ignored by central government.”
Mr Burnett confirmed he had received a “wee text” from party leader Ruth Davidson to congratulate him on his win.
Mr Burnett added: “Ruth knows exactly how much we have put in. We couldn’t have done it without her, the number of times she has visited the North East, she knows how important the North East is to the whole of Scotland.”