General Election - MacNeil and the SNP keep a tight grip on the Western Isles

It was a good night for the SNP's Angus MacNeil (far left) but not such a great story for the Labour candidate, Alison MacCorquodale (second left).
It was a good night for the SNP's Angus MacNeil (far left) but not such a great story for the Labour candidate, Alison MacCorquodale (second left).

“That’s the way we do it in the Western Isles”, declared the triumphant Angus Brendan MacNeil, as he was elected the SNP MP for the Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency in the wee small hours of this morning (Friday, December 13th).

It was another victory for the party in Scotland as it swept the boards to take 48 seats - in fact the SNP secured 45% of the vote - 8.1% more than in the last general election in 2017, when the party won 35 seats.

That mandate in the Western Isles was also increased, as Mr MacNeil took 6,531 votes, up 518 from his 2017 result of 6,013 and increasing his majority from 1,007 in 2017 to 2,438.

Taking the podium immediately after the election result announcement Mr MacNeil thanked the other candidates, his team and the election count staff and officials.

He continued: “Tonight’s election can be viewed either as a disaster or a succcess.

“The disaster is if Scotland is going to be stuck in the UK with Boris Johnson for five years, and it can only be a success if we get out of that and move to Independence.

“Any chance of moving to the Nordic model and away from the hard right will require our Independence, indeed my mind is drawn to the hustings meeting last Thursday, when three out of the four candidates agreed that an Independence referendum could be on the horizon for Scotland, the main disagreement was the timing of that.

“The main message is to move to Independence, that is the most important thing, we aren’t going to solve any issues in Scotland of inequality, of poverty, of any other myriad of problems, unless we have the powers of a normal country.

“I’m struck that to the east of us we have Norway at number one in the UN Human Development index and to the west of us we have Ireland in third place, stuck in 15th or 16th place with Boris-and-co is Scotland and that has to change.”

Perhaps, the eyebrow raising moment of the count, was the support for the Conservative candidate Jennifer Ross, her party came in third spot but her message obviously resonated with the electorate locally, as she secured 3,216 votes up from 2,441 in 2017.

It seems this candidate was able to mobilise the “quiet Tory vote” in the Islands.

Talking about that result at the announcement, she said: “I am absolutely delighted about the result we have had here tonight, it has been our best result in 55 years. I feel certain we can build on this achievement in the future.

“I’m also pleased to see that the UK looks to have returned a stong Conservative majority, which is going to allow us to move the Brexit debate forward at last, if any of you have been following my campaign, you will know how important that was to me.

“It has been a great honour to represent the Conservatives in this constituency, the people I have met here have been warm, welcoming and genuine, no matter what your party affliation.

“I’d like to thank each and every person who voted for me and I hope to return as the Conservative candidate next time to build on the fantastic success here tonight.”

It was a disappointing night for Labour in the Western Isles, the party came second in the election race with 4,093 votes, but this meant that their support in the region has fallen from the 5,006 votes polled at the last General Election.

Talking about the campaign to the Gazette, Labour candidate Alison MacCorquodale, paid tribute to the support of her team and talked of a change in tactics - campaigning on local issues and taking the message to voters in their mobile headquarters - however these elements failed to make enough of a mark with Isles’ voters.

However, she did stress that this election was unusual, and said she found it a positive experience and loved her time on the campaign trail.

For the Liberal Democrat candidate, Neil Mitchison, it was a night where there was not much to shout about. The party failed to win round the electorate in the Islands and only took 637 votes.

The returning officer revealed that 65 votes were rejected and the voting turn out in the Western Isles was 68.9%.