LDV Scottish Elections 2021 – the highlights for Lib Dems as they come in (updated 10:00pm)

This post on the Scottish Parliamentary Elections will be updated as results come in. We won’t be covering all results, just the highlights. Fuller coverage will be posted on Sunday or Monday when we have the final picture.


We begin with Orkney where Liam McArthur has retained the Orkney seat in a landslide victory. Liam has served Orkney for the past 14 years as a Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP, was returned to his seat with 7,238 of 11,621 votes. Shetland and Fife North East are also held.

Caron updates at 21:45

North East Fife

What a result for Willie Rennie!


In Shetland, though, it was a bit closer, but Beatrice Wishart retained her seat, won in a by-election in 2019.

The last result of the day was in Edinburgh Western, won by Alex Cole-Hamilton by just under 3000 votes in 2016.

Alex has been a total force of nature. During the pandemic, he delivered over 1000 meals to people who were shielding during the first lockdown. He has helped thousands of others with casework. He has supported local communities against ridiculous and ill thought out traffic management projects. Last Summer he organised a socially distanced protest against one such scheme in the East Craigs area.

During the campaign he has knocked on thousands of doors. In the months leading up to the campaign when we weren’t allowed to canvass, he phoned thousands more.

His agent and best friend Kevin Lang, an Edinburgh Councillor, won his seat with the highest vote received by a Councillor in Scottish history back in 2017. But Kevin is never one to just rest on his achievements. He and Alex were determined to significantly increase Alex’s majority – and they ended up with a record breaking result. The highest vote of any constituency MSP in the history of the Scottish Parliament.


I could not be more chuffed for Alex and Willie. They are such good constituency MSPs and I’m glad that their electorates have backed them so convincingly. And it wasn’t just a unionist tactical vote – there have been people who are normally SNP supporters who backed them – as I know from my fair whack of phone calls made in the past few months.

What now?

So tomorrow we find out the list results. The worst case scenario is that this 4 is it. We were very lucky in 2016 (a year when pollsters had us heading for wipeout) to win a seat in the north east region by the skin of our teeth. Retaining that will be a challenge. However, we might well do so, and gain some more, by similar skin of teeth. Our final outcome could be anywhere between 4 and 7 on a virtually identical vote to 2016.

All this in a campaign where we put out better and much more literature than ever before, where our leader performed brilliantly on every single occasion.We could not have asked more of him. He brought joy and fun and good sense into the campaign.

We will have to wait and see what happens tomorrow. We don’t know whether the SNP will get an overall majority, which is still possible, although less likely than it looked a few hours ago.

The results show a country very divided over the issue of independence. The challenge will be to engage people from both sides over the next five years.

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  • Very close to losing Shetlands… 809 vote. That’s not good. Well. Done Rennie on increasing his vote share by 11%

  • The Shetland result isn’t as close as it might first appear. Percentage wise, it’s still a decent margin. It just seems closer if you do it in absolute vote terms, rather than percentages. The swing isn’t as dramatic as it first appears due to it relating back to the previous incumbent who had a lot of personal popularity – not that Beatrice didn’t do well. Virtually 50% of the vote, and a risk that supporters assumed she’s safe. We’ll definitely have to be careful to avoid complacency there in the future. The SNP have been fighting very hard to make gains there in recent years, and no sign of that stopping.

    Molly did well to close the gap in her constituency, and it’s very achievable for the future. It’s frustrating to think of how much more could have been achieved if canvasing and leafleting had been allowed sooner. There’s a lot of scope for taking votes from Labour and especially the Tories.

  • Brad Barrows 7th May '21 - 10:39pm

    It is clear that the Liberal Democrats have held their four constituencies thanks to a large amount of Unionist tactical voting. It will be interesting to see how many people vote Liberal Democrat with their list votes.

  • I doubt there was much tactical voting in Orkney and Shetland, and while it’s a factor elsewhere, I think it’s too simplistic to diminish wins claiming it’s just tactical voting. It assumes that no candidate or party can themselves persuade a person to change their vote. Willie and Alex are both fairly high profile and well liked in their communities with a reputation for being hard working and caring constituency MSPs. Of course some people struggle to switch their votes away from their usual party, but it’s much easier to vote ‘tactically’ for someone not on your normal team if you know they do a good job. This has been happening long before nationalism became an issue in Scotland.

    IMO, looking at wider results, there seems to be a pandemic lift for whichever party has been in charge of holding daily press conferences routinely watched by people not of their party. It’s very easy for us to think that Johnson did a terrible job, or that Sturgeon made a lot of mistakes, but their supporters are convinced (despite all evidence) they did great and that creates a narrative that extends to floating voters. Perhaps more than that, the ability to make announcements, carefully timed to fill the airwaves to bury a negative story, is massively valuable for any incumbent government, but multiply that by ten during a pandemic.

    So we see the Tories do well in England, Labour do well in Wales and the SNP do well in Scotland. Other issues are at play, but we should be careful not to use the results as an excuse to confirm our existing prejudices. Many in Labour in particular are being particularly reckless here.

  • Just replying to an earlier post and it shows that Molly was unlucky. She needs support and needs to be shown out and about more in the area. Also highlight how the Lib dem version for federal britian is different to SNP, (when’s a wall not a wall) and the Conservative party. I am encouraged by her and wish her luck in the future

  • Clearly the party’s survival tactic was exactly that – be so unionist that we can cling on where we might be in place to beat the Nats. That can only only explain the absurd vacuity of the SLD campaign – Willie Rennie in lots of action man type poses, not exactly policy heavy. Who can really remember anything he said other than ‘no independence’ (Trump style, ad nauseum, so it stuck). So well done, you kept a few seats – now what? Having hammered home how much you hate self determination you want to reheat last decade’s model and persuade Scots that federalism is all that they’ve been waiting for? Okay, two genuine questions – would federalism allow Scotland to send the nukes back down south, and would federalism have permitted Scotland
    to remain in the EU (as she voted heavily to do)?

    If not, then what is the point?

  • JohnMc, good raised points there especially in regards to the nuclear missiles. Preferably if Scotland wishes to remove them then yes they have to be moved with a new requirement for Faslane needed. As for federalism, it is the only I can see this working. I had a debate with a Labour supporter in Scotland who has voted snp and he wants an open border, however a Scotland wishing to rejoin the EU would want to quickly follow EU rules and protocols or have these applied on joining. When this was pointed out… The debate got quite heated. Federal government or something that allows Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England state hood and then federal government on top, such as USA or Australia type or is there another solution

  • We’re against independence because independence would usher in years of massive austerity and hit the poorest in society the hardest. Nationalism and the creation of borders is the opposite of liberalism. We’re about reaching out to our neighbours, working with them and removing barriers to that. Nationalism assumes nation and people are one and the same, rather than a group of diverse individuals who happen to live there.

    Federalism would balance up power within the UK, but needs to be done hand in hand with decentralisation. Scotland has become far more centralised since the SNP took over. I think it’s partly their nature to want to control everything (instead of those pesky councils) and as a tactic to make Scotland seem like a single block of homogeneity.

    @Dan, I think Molly’s campaign in particular was constrained by the COVID rules. Not being allowed to canvas or knock on doors, or even leaflet until so late in the campaign made the change she created even more impressive. I hope she’ll stand again. You could tell many people were switching to her because she’s smart and thoughtful and had useful things to say about services in the constituency, not just because of ‘tactics’.

  • When the post mortem comes, I hope the results in the Borders and Aberdeenshire West (three seats once held by the party) will not be regarded as “highlights”.

  • @ Fiona “We’re against independence because independence would usher in years of massive austerity and hit the poorest in society the hardest”.

    With respect, that’s an assertion, Fiona. You don’t know that however often you repeat it.

  • John Roffey 8th May '21 - 5:25pm

    One policy that might help the Party to flourish is a requirement that independence referenda require a 60% majority to succeed.

    As we know, this is the case in the US Senate for significant constitutional changes and seems inordinately sensible because once achieved – nationalist party are unlikely to hold another referendum a few years latter – to see if the voters are satisfied with their choice.

    Objectively, this should have been the case for Brexit, however the EU’s failed vaccination policy has meant, according to the polls, that the majority of Remainers would now choose leaving if another vote were held today – so it looks as if the 60% approval rate has been achieved in this case.

  • Well it was a bad night for us. We had higher expectations because we had a good leader, good leaflets with a clear message “put recovery first”.
    The problem is that we were squeezed between the forces of nationalism and the union. And on the union side we are the weakest of 3 parties except in a handful of seats. It is what it is.

    And yes we are against independence because Scotland has been part of the UK for over 300 years. Politically economically and socially we have more in common than differences.

    Also if we believe Brexit was bad economically of course separation will also be bad. More trade barriers a branch economy, a higher deficit and no certainty wrt to our currency. No thanks.

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