MORAY SHOULD NO longer be regarded as a stronghold for the Scottish National Party.
That was the verdict this morning from Douglas Ross MSP after he was returned to Holyrood on the Highlands and Islands list – but also with a resounding 8000 reduction in the majority once enjoyed by his SNP opponent, Richard Lochhead MSP.
A basic look at the numbers returned from the Moray count overnight made it fairly clear to see where the support for the Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor came, as the SNP vote fell by just over 1000 from five years ago, and that of the Labour and Lib Dem candidates pretty much stood still.
It was in the increased turnout from 2011 – from 50.5% to 54.1% – that much of the story appears to have been told, more people turning out to vote for the popular local councillor and carrying him very close to an outright victory.
“I knew we were getting a positive reaction on the doorstep but I also realised that 11,000 majorities are not easily overturned,” Mr Ross told insideMoray before turning in for some well-earned rest this morning.
He added: “So to increase our vote by 18% was way beyond my expectations – and I’m grateful to everyone who supported me in this campaign, either as part of our small team of volunteers or to the near-13,000 people who put their trust in me to represent them.”
The result nationally turned the overall political landscape on its head, with thousands turning their backs on Scottish Labour and the proportional representation system kicking in to ensure that, this time around, there would be no overall majority for Nicola Sturgeon to enjoy.
While the SNP will enjoy power, it will not be in the ‘untouchable’ manner they swept the board in the Westminster election last year.
And for Douglas Ross and his Scottish Conservative colleagues there can no longer be jokes about their national political status – at Holyrood at least.
For Moray there was joy that the region is now represented by two MSP’s – and sadness that a third did not make it, Laura Mitchell, Richard Lochhead’s parliamentary assistant and No2 in the SNP’s regional list, failing to make the cut.
Douglas Ross insists, however, that Moray now has a very strong voice in Edinburgh: “I have now been elected as an MSP for the wider Highlands and Islands region which includes Moray – and I look forward to representing my home constituency in the Parliament.
“Ruth Davidson has promised to provide a strong opposition and I promise to be a strong voice for Moray.
“This result took many by surprise and means that Moray can no longer be considered a stronghold of the SNP. We’ve gone from 20% of the vote five years ago to over 38% today. Just a little more support will see us win the seat.
“I congratulate Richard Lochhead on his victory and I will work with him where it is in the best interests of the people of Moray and the Highlands and Islands. But I will also continue to challenge the SNP when they let local people down.
“There’s a lot of work to do as a MSP for the Region and I can’t wait to get started.”