Jackson Carlaw claimed the first big surprise of the night by winning the Eastwood constituency, setting the tone for a good night for the Scottish Conservatives at Labour’s expense.
He took the seat from Labour veteran Ken Macintosh, who entered Holyrood at its set-up in 1999, and has made two failed attempts for the party’s leadership in recent years.
Mr Carlaw has been an MSP since 2007, and a Tory for much longer, having joined the party in 1978. He failed on three occasions to win the Eastwood constituency seat, in 2003, 2007 and 2011, before finally succeeding in 2016.
Mr Carlaw, 57, a list MSP representing the West of Scotland for the past nine years, stood for the party’s leadership when Annabel Goldie resigned in 2011, losing out to Holyrood newcomer Ruth Davidson.
The Holyrood election will bring about a “seismic shift” in Scottish politics which could see the Tories form the official opposition, Scottish Secretary David Mundell predicted.
Mr Mundell, who is the only Conservative MP in Scotland, said he was “confident” the party would achieve its goal of becoming the second
largest party in the Scottish Parliament.
That would be the Tories’ best ever Holyrood result and a dramatic transformation for the party.
In 1997, the same year that Scots voted overwhelmingly in favour of the creation of the Scottish Parliament, the Conservatives were wiped out north of the Border in the general election.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said her party “might be in for a very good night indeed”.
Asked if she was confident that her party would come second, she said: “I said yesterday that I thought that our nose was in front, all the indicators tonight seem to confirm that.
“We’ve seen our vote double in several areas across the country, including places like East Kilbride and places like Kilmarnock that aren’t traditional Tory strongholds.
“We’re hearing particularly in the north-east that we may well go from two to four MSPs, so we’ve got a lot to look forward to tonight, I hope.”
Labour figures had feared that the anti-semitism row engulfing their party would damage their chances in the seat, which is home to Scotland’s largest’s Jewish community.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Carlaw that that for someone “born and bred” in Eastwood his victory was his “proudest moment”.
He paid tribute to Mr Macintosh and Mr Maxwell. But his most fulsome praise was for Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.
“When I came into politics the Conservative Party was a blue collar, meritocratic party that sought to represent the people whatever their circumstances across Scotland. We lost touch with that for too long.
“In Ruth Davidson the Conservative Party has found a champion. This result bodes well for the fortunes of the Conservative Party for the rest of the evening.”
READ MORE: Holyrood 2016: Constituency results in full