Beatrice Wishart wins Shetland by-election for the Lib Dems

Great news from Shetland tonight as the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ Beatrice Wishart won the Scottish Parliament by-election with 48% of the vote.

The result in full is:

Beatrice Wishart (Scottish Lib Dems)5,659 (47.86%, -19.52%)
Tom Wills (SNP) 3,822 (32.32%, +9.27%)
Ryan Thomson (Independent) 1,286 (10.88%)
Brydon Goodlad (Scottish Conservative) 425 (3.59%, -0.07%)
Debra Nicolson (Green) 189 (1.60%)
Johan Adamson (Scottish Labour) 152 (1.29%, -4.61%)
Michael Stout (Independent) 134 (1.13%)
Ian Scott (Independent) 66 (0.56%)
Stuart Martin (UKIP) 60 (0.51%)
Peter Tait (Independent) 31 (0.26%)
14.40% swing Lib Dem to SNP
Electorate 17,810 – Turnout 11,824 (66.39%, up by 4.31%)

Willie Rennie was delighted:

And Scottish Lib Dem Women’s Girls Supporting Girls initiative helped too, with visits from Jo Swinson and Christine Jardine.


A by-election in your safest seat is a scary thing, particularly when your party has caused it when previous incumbent Tavish Scott left politics to go and work for Scottish Rugby. He had a huge personal vote and had always by his own admission fought as himself rather than as a Lib Dem.

The SNP threw the entire kitchen at this because they knew that if we lost the seat, we would lose our status a a group in the Scottish Parliament. SNP MPs from the central belt had been pounding the streets of Shetland. They put a lot of fire power our way but we still got almost half the vote even with a strong challenge from Independent Ryan Thompson who was the biggest gainer.

Beatrice Wishart is a brilliant MSP who will bring expertise in domestic violence due to her work with Women’s Aid and in local government due to her role as Depute Convener of Shetland Islands Council.  It is also fantastic that our group is no longer all male.  I am thrilled for her.

The Scottish Party ran a brilliant campaign. Paul Moat, our director of campaigns ran a superb campaign ably supported by the team who sorted out all the logistics. Jenny Wilson, Megan Wiseman, Nasser Kessell and James Calder each went way beyond the call of duty.

Shetland is a beautiful place but it is a long way away yet so many members from across the whole U.K. went there. Chesterfield Councillor and regular LDV contributor Ed Fordham spent a few days there and loved it. I am gutted that I couldn’t get there for work and family reasons but helped in other ways.








* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • David Evans 30th Aug '19 - 5:36am

    A reassuring outcome, in a seat where the Nats were out to get us, but as our Shetland is half of our only safe Westminster seat and Tavish ‘always by his own admission fought as himself rather than as a Lib Dem,’ it does underline a need for us to improve our organisation in rural Scotland and the islands, however difficult that might seem to be in practice. Our long term survival and success will depend on it.
    Having great individuals is excellent, and to make a breakthrough is often essential, but if we don’t get back to people voting for us regularly *because we are Lib Dems* we will always have to work much harder than the other parties.

    You only have to look at the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency, one among many Westminster seats we used to hold in rural Scotland. It was ours in its various forms for 50 years up to the disaster of 2015, but which in 2017 (when the Michael Moore the previous Lib Dem MP who had held it for 18 years to 2015 did not stand) we collapsed to only 4.7% of the vote.

    Beatrice and her team of men and women will have a tough job, but they deserve our thanks and support in what is the most difficult seat in the country to canvass, but which has been Liberal and Lib Dem at Westminster since Jo Grimond won it (Orkney and Shetland) for us back in 1950. I wish them all well, and if I ever make it that far North (and the midges are not out) I will commit to helping them.

  • Congratulations to Beatrice and everyone who worked towards her win

    I know we are often accused of fighting hard in by-elections, but the SNP took it to new levels, including Sturgeon making three visits to Shetland which, if I’ve read correctly, she’s not once visited outwith an election campaign. Multiple (not cheap) visits by Swinney and just about every other SNP MSP to a part of the country they’ve barely considered in the past shows how desperate they were to beat us.

    The SNP will be pleased with their result, and I know they were preparing the line that it was shameful for us to have a reduced majority, and that “Swinson must resign” (and please stop holding the SNP Government to account and being visibly Scottish whilst not SNP), so I expect to see some of that in the coming days. But as Caron says, getting 49% in a ten candidate field is impressive in a hard fought campaign, especially for a new candidate replacing an incumbent who had huge personal support.

    I’m sure given time and the opportunity to prove her worth that Beatrice will win over those who considered one of the independents yesterday.

  • Amazing time there – so glad I went and was a pleasure to get to know Beatrice – thoughtful, compassionate, determined, reassuring, and more besides.

    Exactly the sort of public servant we need more of.

    Chesterfield, Derbyshire

  • Richard Underhill 30th Aug '19 - 8:07am

    Ian Sanderson (RM3) STV has been used in Scotland for local councils by decision of the outgoing Labour-LibDem coalition in the Edinburgh parliament, which had been set up with a mixed system since inception. This is a by-election in one seat, a long way from Edinburgh.

  • Andrew McCaig 30th Aug '19 - 8:38am

    Scottish parliament elections are a mixed system with one set of MSPs elected by FPTP in comstituencies, and then a top up from regional lists. Tavish Scott was a constituency MSP, so this was a FPTP by election

    Tavish Scott only got about 46% in 2011, when challenged by an Indy, so this is a good result for a new candidate with an Indy getting 11%

  • Well done, I have family in shetland and they correctly don’t identify themselves as Scottish. The fact remains a reduced majority will allow snp to smell blood and go for it again and I bet the cyber nats will be hollowing with joy. So what can we do to stop the SNP. I say there is a hardcore of indy yes voters with a soft core. We need positive position on Scotland and also shetland and Orkney, perhaps as Tavish says we need to push for Shetland and Orkney Island to becoming self governing away from Edinburgh, try pushing that it Edinburgh and see how the SNP react. For Scotland we need to push the Liberal view of a decentralised UK with federal in the US/Canadian and Australian view also local active members. What is membership like in Scotland are they up or down. Also we need to find a way to challenge and stop the cybernats. SNP have many weakness especially theu regid application of no dessent amongst the ranks.

  • John Marriott 30th Aug '19 - 10:36am

    In the Scottish Independence Referendum Scots were told that, if they wanted to stay in the EU, they had better vote to stay in the U.K. Well, if the U.K. crashes out of the EU and a majority of Scots still wants to remain, how does the original argument still stand?

    You know, I am inclined to give the Scots another Independence Referendum sooner rather than later. If the result is in favour of independence, so be it. However, Scotland should realise that things might not be so hunky dory. If an independent Scotland were to apply for membership of the EU it would surely have to sign up to everything, including Schengen, the Euro (especially as the U.K. government has made it clear that it could not use the pound Sterling), and increased federalism. If I were living north of the border, the only Federal state I would support is a properly Federal U.K. However, I don’t live north of the border so I would not presume to tell those who do, including my friend, David Raw, what was best for them.

  • Well done to Ms Wishart.

    Hopefully Ms Wishart will be in touch with the Trussell Trust Foodbank in Lerwick and hear what they have to say about poverty and inequality and how Liberal Democrat policy could react to it

    Shetland Foodbank – The Trussell Trust…/find-a-foodbank/shetland
    Part of The Trussell Trust foodbank network giving food and support to local people in crisis. Working to stop hunger and poverty in the UK.

    Use of foodbank increases to record levels | Shetland News › 2018/12/19 › use-of-shetland-foodbank-incr…
    19 Dec 2018 – THE NUMBER of people resorting to Shetland Foodbank has continued to grow, with record amounts of food distributed being attributed to …

  • John Marriott. How many times do you have to be told that a Federal EU would require a new treaty and that would require the unanimous agreement of all EU member states? Please stop making fatuous comments about Federalism. As a member of the EU Scotland would be able to exercise a veto on moves towards further federalism if it so chose. Yes, an independent Scotland would not get any of the opt-outs the UK currently enjoys and would have to accept the Euro and Schengen. Given the likely collapse of the pound following Brexit would this be a bad thing? And surely easy access to the EU via Schengen would be a good thing for a small country on the edge of the EU?
    We are not there yet. As the by-election result shows, the Lib Dem message on independence is not harming the party in Shetland, though of course a disastrous Brexit might change views across the board.
    As to David Raw. You simply couldn’t confine yourself to wishing our new MSP well, given your Joblike pontification of a week or so ago that she was in trouble. You had to mount your usual hobby horse even before our new MSP has sat at her desk. Shame on you.

  • @ My equally old and ancient friend, John Marriott ” If an independent Scotland were to apply for membership of the EU it would surely have to sign up to everything, including Schengen, the Euro (especially as the U.K. government has made it clear that it could not use the pound Sterling), and increased federalism.”

    Good question, John. This was put to the First Minister recently and she said it was not the case….. Here’s the interview :

    Nicola Sturgeon interview on Brexit, Scottish Independence …
    First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon discusses her time frame for a second Scottish referendum – and is challenged on whether Scotland would have to commit to adopting the Euro…….

    Undoubtedly Scotland would benefit enormously from remaining in the EU…e.g. the price of lamb and other Scottish exports… and who knows…. even Nissan might move 100 miles north ?? Given I cross the border regularly for family reasons I’m not going to disclose by which back lane in case B.Johnson erects a hard border at Berwick and Gretna.

    I voted No last time, but I do detect a change in sentiment amongst people I talk to now Johnson is PM (and Davidson has gone). To an extent it was reflected in the Shetland result. I predict the Tories will lose most of their Scottish seats next time…. as to the Lib Dems ???

  • @ Mick Taylor Come off it, Dr Taylor.

    The growth of food banks is in the real world and if you regard that as a hobby horse then shame on you. John Marriott doesn’t make fatuous comments……., and also in the real world there was a swing to the SNP in Shetland and a near 20% drop in the Lib Dem vote.. You might not like it but ask yourself why.

  • John Marriott 30th Aug '19 - 11:47am

    @Mick Taylor
    Wow, I appear to have hit a raw nerve (no pun intended). Sorry for my impertinence, Sir. Will a hundred lines be sufficient?

    Seriously though, of course I know how things work in Europe. I might not have a Phd; but I have studied and worked there both before and after we joined the EEC, as it then was. Unlike so many Brits I haven’t just acquired my profound knowledge of all things European from two weeks per year on the Costa del Sol! Nor, for that matter, do I believe that Johnny Foreigner will understand you if you talk loudly enough. (It used to be a case of carrying a big stick; but not any more!)

    The problem is that those in the know have done an abysmal job in explaining the European facts of life over the years. No wonder the public in general has succumbed to all those myths about ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ etc.

  • David,

    Nicola Sturgeon can say what she wishes, but at the end of the day what terms Scotland was offered would be up to the EU. So yes the Euro, Schengen and a hard border are probably a given. She is indulging in the delusion that “We are special and will get given special thing, because we are well special”. As to Nissan moving North I’m afraid delusion has spread to you too. Why would Nissan create a new factory in a small country with a hard border with it nearest neighbour, far from it’s main markets when you could just ship the cars from Japan. Your right of cause jobs would move, but they would be moving the other way as UK government agencies moved South. I’m sure Sunderland after the loss of Nissan would say “Thank you very much, doesn’t quite cover the Nissan losses but the Student Loan Agency is a start, thank you very much indeed”. The reality is Scotland depends on Barnet, yes they could have Independence but it would hurt and if the EU insisted on a budget deficit of 3% it would be on a scale of hurt comparable with Greece. Your nearest neighbour and biggest market is unlikely to look favourable on you, the reality is the Scots Nats like the Brexiteers have an over inflated opinion of their place in the world. Both think they are being dragged down by the “other” both are wrong.

    Alister jack said of the SNP “I’m sorry but I’m not sure I can spot the difference. Like nationalist movements the world over, it requires an enemy to make it thrive. It needs an ‘other’ to rail against.

    “It’s all about finding something at which to take offence so they pick fights about flags on packaging, scour news bulletins and political shows for examples of imaginary bias.”

    Which is ironic because the same can be said about the Brexiteers (of which he is one) , they need the EU to blame, the SNP need the English although they would claim it’s actually Westmonster, but I beg to differ. Two cheeks of the same bottom I’m afraid both have their roots in nationalism which is based on the “we are special” and when they find out they are not well that is the fault of the “other”.

  • Martin,

    So it will be a hard border between England and Scotland then. As to the EU taking on Scotland, perhaps, perhaps not after all politicians seldom vote to take on more problems and it only takes one of the 27 to say no to taking on the problem of Scotland ( a poor country at the edges of Europe with an aged population). I’d suspect they be given warm words, told they be fast tracked and effectively be put in the queue with the others, with a few sweeties to assuage the collective conscience .

  • I’d be grateful if those commenters on this page stating that an independent Scotland joining the EU will need to use the Euro as its currency could explain how Sweden, with no Treaty opt-out, continues to use Swedish Krona 24 years after acceding to the EU.

  • Congratulations to Beatrice. It was a hard fought campaign.

    As someone who has previously quit the LDs nationally because of the unwillingness to allow a (first) indyref, something I will never understand (and which flies in the face of the preamble to our own constitution) I do take exception to talk of the Nats ‘flooding’ Shetland with activists from the central belt (because of course we don’t do that ever in by elevations do we – Oh, how did you enjoy Brecon Caron? 🙂 ). Talk of Shetland exceptionalism, not being Scots etc too. Well, well, all good fun I suppose, but I wonder how liberal the LD voters that oppose the Nats are?

    Another way to look at the result is that the LDs hold on, despite losing 1/5 of the vote, the Scot Tories are out for the count, and the SNP activity yielded just a 10% increase in the most difficult half of their most challenging seat.

  • Rob Cannon. Because when they joined it was not compulsory to use the Euro

  • David Raw. You really do have the capacity for avoiding criticism don’t you. You know perfectly well that the issue of poverty is one I’m passionate about. My point was that you couldn’t simply congratulate the winner and leave it at that, perhaps even apologise for doubting her ability to win in one of your recent posts?
    Oh and by the way, there is an opportunity to have a radical policy on poverty at conference. I trust your amendment to achieve this is on its way.

  • Well done. An independent Scotland with a 9% deficit without English funding would not be eligible for EU membership.

  • So Martin, you’ve moved from a shoe in to highly unlikely. By the time Scotland gets round to voting and disentangling themselves from what is left of the UK many years will have passed, at that point who knows what the EU will think. Of cause the most sensible idea is to ask the EU, if you get a definitive Yes well we won’t have to discus the issue, if you get something else with if, buts and maybes well be afraid be very afraid, as Scotland throws itself over the cliff praying a trampoline lies at the bottom of it. We have seen with the Brexiteers how they start with “We hold all the cards” and end up with “Mr Bunn the Baker”, the Scots would be foolish not to check, but like the Brexiteers many a Scots Nat will just assume.

  • William Fowler 30th Aug '19 - 1:39pm

    Because Scotland won’t accept the overall Brexit vote in the UK, will the SNP then have to accept if the Border counties and Shetland etc decide they want to remain in the UK then it will be by their own logic be a much smaller Scotland that leaves the UK with borders altered to suit those parts that want to remain in the UK?

  • Ian Patterson 30th Aug '19 - 1:39pm

    Whilst congratulations are in order to our Shetland brethren, it should be noted we can’t withstand that many 14.4% swings against us.

  • Ian Paterson it is worth noting our candidate’s % of the vote is higher than that achieved on two of the occasions our outgoing MSP was victorious and is much higher than achieved as recently as in May at the Euro elections. There were also ten candidates including a strongly supported independent as sometimes happens in the island constituencies. And, of course, Tavish had 20 years to build up his personal support base. On that basis I think the outcome is in fact highly creditable not least as the SNP clearly spent a king’s ransom on their campaign which we cannot match.

  • Paul Barker 30th Aug '19 - 1:57pm

    While our Vote share fell by 20%, less then half of that seems to have gone to The SNP with most going to a raft of Independents. Also The SNP won’t be able to put in anything like that level of campaigning in a General Election.
    We lost just below a third of our previous Vote Share, Labour lost three-quarters of theirs.

  • Dennis Wake 30th Aug '19 - 2:45pm

    Yes the Liberal Democrat vote was in line with previous elections but, as the Shetland News mentions, younger people such as the over 16 voters, are turning to the SNP (up 9.27 %). It is the collapse of the Labour vote since the time they got 22% and came second in 1999 which is most remarkable. Presumably their voters have switched to the SNP. No wonder the UK Labour party are desperate for an alliance.
    Be careful what you wish for. In England the younger ones will vote Green, not Liberal Democrat.
    Congratulations to Beatrice Wishart on a well deserved victory.

  • Tony Greaves 30th Aug '19 - 5:22pm

    Odd how a thread starting with a stonking victory, rightly described by the press as the LDs fighting off a huge SNP challenge (and they were saying they were going to win) turns into a personal spat about the terms of membership that Scotland could get from the EU. My guess is that the EU would bend over backwards to get them in, but at this moment it does not matter. What matters is that Beatrice Wishart tonked the lot of them. Let’s just celebrate that.

  • @Martin, you say “Is the Scottish Liberal Democrat Party in some way qualitatively different to the Party in England? Is its membership quite strongly unionist?”

    The difference being that us Scots will have to live with the consequences of independence, and that would make us a lot poorer. It would require substantial austerity at levels much greater than seen following the financial crash of 2008. If you disagree, can you explain why with reasons more compelling than our need to be more patriotic?

    @Tony, I don’t find it odd. If you’ve lived through the independence debate you’ll know that no place is safe from nationalists insisting that separation will make things better. But in practice, all of the LibDems who are worried about the impact of severing our relationship with the EU shouldn’t be blithely suggesting Scottish independence as an easy solution without taking the time to consider the damage it would do.

    I’m glad you think the EU would bend over backwards to let an independent Scotland join, but you are falling into the same trap as the Brexiteers who insisted that the UK would get a great bespoke deal because we hold all the cards. If we’ve learnt anything from the EU negotiations it’s that leaving a single market (in this case the UK single market where Scotland does most of its trade) and the EU know their rules and stick to them. I feel like I’m repeating myself on here, so excuse me if I give the potted version – but we don’t meet the economic criteria. We’re a very long way off from meeting the economic criteria, and the EU won’t risk having to prop up another Greece just to wind up Brexit voters.

    If people are sincerely interested in learning more about the economic consequences of Scottish independence then I recommend starting with this introduction and basic response to the SNP’s Growth Commission report.

    I also note that the SNP vote share was lower at this election than the equivalent Yes vote in 2014.

  • Martin – you miss Tony Greaves’ main point, which is that the above article is actually about our by election victory that a lot of people worked like dogs to achieve – as well as sacrificing a lot of time and money to get there. If you want to argue the merits of independence I suggest you write an article about it and submit it to LDV, but I think Tony G is correct that this should have been a thread celebrating a great win.

  • Martin,

    Some light reading
    Net Fiscal Balance: Scotland and UK 2014-15 to 2018-19
    £ million
    2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
    Scotland – Excluding North Sea -10.5% -10.5% -10.0% -9.6% -8.5%
    Scotland – Including North Sea -8.7% -9.7% -9.2% -8.1% -7.0%
    UK -4.9% -3.8% -2.3% -2.0% -1.1%

    Of cause after Brexit the finances will be worse, but they are hardly starting from a firm base as far as Scotland is concerned. Going forward decommissioning in North Sea is likely to become a major negative. Facts and nationalism don’t tend to co-exist easily.

  • Other results for Thursday are

    East Kilbride Central North (South Lanarkshire) first preferences:

    SNP: 46.5% (+4.2)
    LAB: 20.3% (-11.3)
    CON: 14.6% (-4.1)
    LDEM: 12.4% (+9.9)
    GRN: 4.5% (+0.6)
    UKIP: 1.4% (+1.4)
    LBT: 0.4% (+0.4)


    LBT: Libertarian.

    Britain Elects
    29 Aug
    Radcliffe West (Bury) result:

    RADF: 41.7% (+41.7)
    LAB: 35.8% (-24.7)
    CON: 14.3% (-10.7)
    LDEM: 5.7% (+2.7)
    UKIP: 2.5% (+2.5)

    Radcliffe First GAIN from Labour.

    Source Britain elects.

    A mini revival in Scotland and a disappointing set of results for labour and the Tories. It looks like the Lib Dem base vote is increasing, a bit of good news.

  • @martin

    “I do not know how parlous is the state of the Scottish economy….”

    Scotland’s GVA per capita (excluding North Sea oil which the UK Treasury treats as a separate region) is the best in the country after London and South East England and its employment and unemployment rates are generally better than the UK as a whole. It’s productivity has been growing faster than the UK as a whole and it consistently performs well for inward investment as recorded in the regular E&Y reports.

    Its net fiscal balance is about mid table in UK terms according to ONS figures comparable to an English region like Yorkshire and Humberside and the West Midlands.

  • @dan

    ” We need positive position on Scotland and also shetland and Orkney, perhaps as Tavish says we need to push for Shetland and Orkney Island to becoming self governing away from Edinburgh, try pushing that it Edinburgh and see how the SNP react.”

    Do you think it would be entirely consistent pushing for Shetland and Orkney to become self-governing while denying that option to Scotland?

  • Paul Barker 31st Aug '19 - 1:04pm

    Also worth noting that in the latest “Best PM” Polling Jo gets 19% & Corbyn 17%. This is despite the fact that only 1 in 3 Voters know who Jo is.

  • @ Paul Barker All credit for flying the flag for Jo, Paul, but I suggest caution in using those figures.

    What you’re really saying is that two thirds of the electorate don’t know who she is and 81% don’t regard her as the best Prime Minister.

  • Paul Barker 31st Aug '19 - 3:51pm

    Is it possible to have an opinion about someone that you have never heard of & is that opinion valuable if you do ?
    I think that what the Polls are telling us is that Jo is seen as PM material by nearly 3 in 5 of those who know who she is. That sounds hopeful to me.

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