Alex Salmond has been elected as the MSP for Aberdeenshire East, and seems certain to lead his party back into a second period of government, following a night of stunning successes for the SNP.
In a night of high drama, the SNP managed to win every single constituency in the North East, sweeping away long-serving Lib Dem and Labour members in the process. It was a scene repeated in many constituencies across Scotland, as once seemingly impregnable Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem seats fell victim to the unstoppable SNP tide.
Mr Salmond was returned as the MSP for Aberdeenshire East with a whopping 64.5% share of the vote. His nearest challenger, Lib Dem Alison McInnes, trailed in behind with just 14%. The Conservatives’ Geordie Burnett-Stuart polled 4,211 votes - down 2.4 percent - while Labour’s Peter Thomas Smyth was fourth with 2,304 - down 0.1 percent.
Mr Salmond was soon followed by colleague Stewart Stevenson in the neighbouring Banffshire and Buchan Coast seat, who was returned with an even more emphatic 67.2% of the vote. Michael Watt of the Conservatives polled 4,592 - up half a percent, while Labour’s Alan Duffill consigned the Liberal Democrat candidate Galen Milne to fourth spot with 2,642 votes compared to just 958.
Nationalist candidate Maureen Watt swept away the Lib Dem challenge in Aberdeen South and North Kincardine, wining the seat ahead of Labour with a majority of over 6,000. Meanwhile, in Aberdeen Central, Aberdeen City Council depute leader Kevin Stewart emerged victorious over Labour’s Lewis McDonald with a majority of just over 600.
However, the most dramatic result of the evening at the AECC came in Aberdeenshire West, where the SNP’s Dennis Robertson pulled off a 13.4% swing to defeat Liberal Democrat Mike Rumbles.
Mr Robertson will be the Scottish Parliament’s first registered blind MSP. In an emotional victory speech, he dedicated his victory to his family and in particular to his daughter Caroline, who had died earlier in the year.
As a defeated MSP, Mr Rumbles had the right to respond to the winning candidate. In a short and gracious speech, he said it had been a tremendous privilege to represent his constituents in the Scottish Parliament. He also wished Mr Robertson well, saying that people in West Aberdeenshire had a “good man” as their new representative.
Across Scotland, the SNP took some notable scalps, including Labour’s Shadow Finance Spokesman Andy Kerr in East Kilbride; Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Jeremy Purvis in Midlothian and Tweeddale; and former Conservative leader David McLetchie in Edinburgh Pentlands.
In the capital, the SNP managed to win five out of the city’s six seats, while in Glasgow, previously a Labour stronghold, the party won 5 constituencies to Labour’s 3. However, the story of the night across the country was the apparent collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, and the seeming ability of the SNP to take support from all parties.
In his victory speech, Mr Salmond paid tribute to the people of the North East, whom he described as the most generous, forthright people in the world, and also the most far-seeing.
“Once again, the North East of Scotland is leading the way for the whole country”, Mr Salmond said. “I hope after this result we’ll see an end to fearmongering, negativity and scaremongering in Scottish politics - no more insults to the intelligence of the Scottish people.
Referring to the National Party of Scotland - a forerunner to the SNP - he added: “Some 70 years and more later, the SNP can finally claim that we have lived up to that accolade as the national party of Scotland. We have reached out to every community across this country.”
Referring to the scale of the national victory, Mr Salmond vowed to use this mandate to increase the powers of the Scottish Parliament. “It’s clear from the indications so far that it’s likely that the SNP has been bestowed trust by the Scottish people in a way that no party has before in a Scottish election”, he said. “We’ll take that mandate and trust forward to increase the powers of our parliament”
“Just as the people have bestowed trust in us, we must also trust the people. In this term, we shall bring forward a referendum and trust the people with Scotland’s own constitutional future.”
Speaking after the declaration, Aberdeenshire East Lib Dem candidate Alison McInnes, who was returned on the North East regional list, expressed her disappointment at the drop in the Lib Dem vote. “It was a tough call against the First Minister, and would have been hard enough to do on a good day”, she said.
“We fought a good, local campaign on my record of action. However, when it came to the national picture, we were always in a losing battle with the SNP riding high in the polls.”
Third-placed Conservative candidate Geordie Burnett Stewart said:
“We nearly got second place, and for us, that would have been a triumph. However, this was more of a coronation than an election, with people voting for a First Minister rather than an MSP.
“I hope that the SNP/Tory co-operation from the last parliament continues into the new parliament, as the country will need Tory ideas put into practice.”
Labour candidate Peter Smyth, who trailed in fourth, offered his congratulations to Alex Salmond, adding that he felt the result represented a step forward for Labour in Aberdeenshire East.
“I’m proud of the positive campaign and the positive message that we fought locally. We engaged well, and have won votes where we have never won them before.
“It’s clear the Lib Dems have suffered a catastrophe. People in Aberdeenshire who believe in progressive politics now have one choice, and that is to vote Scottish Labour.”
On the North-East regional list, Labour won three seats, the Conservatives two and the Lib Dems and SNP one apiece.