Molly Nolan of the Lib Dems is 'within three points' of SNP's Maree Todd in battle for far north seat at Scottish election
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Willie Rennie believes that far north candidate Molly Nolan can topple the SNP in the constituency.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader was in the Highlands at the weekend, partly in a bid to help secure the seat.
Party polling from the Lib Dems suggests that Ms Nolan is closing the gap on the SNP candidate Maree Todd – and that there is a real chance of a win for the party in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.
The polling shows that Ms Todd sits at 37.2 per cent while Ms Nolan is just three points behind at 34.2 per cent – the Conservatives are at 14.1 per cent and Labour sit at 10.5 per cent.
Compared to the 2016 Scottish election results, that would put the SNP down 6.1 per cent, the Lib Dems up 3.2 per cent, the Tories 1.2 per cent down, and no change for Labour.
According to Mr Rennie, that shows how people in the Highlands are getting “fed-up with the SNP taking the area for granted”.
“The Highlands is too often an afterthought if you look at the prison service, broadband, the issue around rural services, road infrastructure, because the road system up here is extensive,” he said. "Our manifesto has in part been shaped by our experience in the far north and the Highlands.
“We know we can win this, we can take out a Scottish Government minister – who I don’t think has served the community particularly well on the list – and we can bring in Molly Nolan.
“She has a bit of the Charles Kennedy about her, she is just starting off, she is bright, intelligent, similar age, experience in America, a local woman who is feisty – you don’t cross her – so I think she will be a great representative for the far north.
“It is so important to have a great team working for the north, between Molly and MP Jamie Stone in both parliaments together.
“I can see the direction of travel on health services and on investment in roads and on broadband changing if they are in parliament because they will be a very effective duo.”
But Ms Todd dismissed the Lib Dem figures, saying: “Any polling put forward by the Lib Dems will undoubtedly be met with derision given their history of dodgy bar charts.”
She added: “The SNP manifesto has committed to investing in Caithness General Hospital and working to improve maternity and midwifery services. In stark contrast, the Lib Dem manifesto gives zero commitments to Caithness General Hospital.
“It’s unsurprising that Willie Rennie’s ambitions don’t extend much beyond ‘taking out’ a government minister.
“I want Caithness, Sutherland and Ross to have strong democratic representation, from a hard-working MSP with the energy and the passion to cover this vast and diverse constituency.
“It would be a huge privilege to represent Caithness, Sutherland and Ross having worked and lived here all my life. I understand the challenges and have the vision to take this forward and I will make sure our voice is heard.”