Breaking: The SNP’s Maree Todd wins the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross seat after fighting off a close challenge from the Liberal Democrat’s Molly Nolan
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The SNP's Maree Todd has won the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross seat for the party in what was a closer contest than anticipated.
Ms Todd fought off a strong challenge from Molly Nolan after the Liberal Democrats made the far north one of their target seats.
She won with a reduced majority of 2591 while Ms Nolan took 13,298 votes. They were followed by the Conservative's Struan Mackie with 5170 and Labour's Marion Donaldson who got 2016.
The Scottish Libertarian Party and the Freedom Alliance candidates together pooled just more than 500 votes.The far north saw a turnout of 36,993 for the constituency vote which equates to 64.8 per cent of eligible voters.
Ms Todd, the former Highlands and Islands regional MSP and children's minister, will now be returned to Holyrood to represent the constituency, replacing Gail Ross, who chose to stand down for family reasons.
Speaking after the declaration, Ms Todd said: "It is the privilege of my life to be elected to represent the people of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. I’ve been elected to represent everyone in this constituency, regardless of whether they voted for me, and I promise I will do this to the best of my ability.
“The journey to get to this point has only confirmed to me what I always knew about this part of Scotland I call home, we are full of passionate, innovative and committed folk who all want the same thing - the Highlands to be the best possible place to grow up, live and work in.
“I will work for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross to ensure this ambition is realised and our voice is heard in Holyrood.
“Despite first appearances, we politicians generally want the same things for our constituents, regardless of party. We want people to be healthy, wealthy, and live in peace with each other. How we get there is where we differ but fundamentally, we share more with each other than sets us apart. I want to thank my fellow candidates for a respectful debate. Not once did any of us make personal comments, derogatory remarks or consciously make misleading statements, which is testimony to the calibre of candidates here.
“I look forward to hitting the ground running - thank you.”
Ms Nolan took the chance to say that the people and recovery of the constituency should come first.
"I would like to thank all the candidates," she said. "Healthy debate is a good thing for our country, and we have proved it is alive and well in the Highlands. To Maree Todd - many congratulations.
"People across Caithness, Sutherland and Ross deserve an MSP that will put them first. I genuinely hope you are successful in doing that. Scottish Liberal Democrats should be proud of our campaign.
"We did what was right: speaking up for rural communities, demanding better healthcare provision and challenging to do more on the climate emergency.
"But turning around a majority of nearly 4,000 in one of the largest seats across Scotland in just a matter of months is no mean feat. I am sorry we couldn't do it this time.
"We don’t yet know the outcome of the election.
"However, we know how hard the pandemic has been for so many families across the Highlands.
"My plea to those elected today is therefore simple – don’t be consumed by the arguments of the past. Unite people and put the recovery first.
"Finally, I would like to thank my family who have been my rock in this campaign. My fantastic team who have been vital in making our campaign happen.
"The countless volunteers across the country who aided our efforts. And of course the people of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. You do not deserve to be forgotten, and despite today’s result, I remain on your side."