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POLITICS MATTERS: SNP is a big loser while there’s a gold rush for Lib Dems

By David Stewart

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Angus MacDonald (centre) and Michael Perera (right) with returning offer Derek Brown. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Angus MacDonald (centre) and Michael Perera (right) with returning offer Derek Brown. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Last week’s general election was a political shock wave of tsunami proportions.

For sure, the polls had been predicting a Labour victory for many months, but they have got it wrong before, have they not? Even hard-nosed Labour veterans were shocked by the scale of the victory - 412 Labour MPs, 9.5 million people voting Labour and the flip side was the worst-ever result for the Tory party in their history.

Sir Keir Starmer has a majority of more than 170 seats, just short of Tony Blair’s 179 majority in the 1997 landslide victory.

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It was also a good night for the Liberal Democrats, who won 72 seats - a scale of victory not seen since the heady days of the Charlie Kennedy leadership. Congratulations to the new Lib Dem MP for Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire, Angus MacDonald. He ran a well-financed and polished campaign, not seen in the Highlands since the days of former local Lib Dem MP, Sir Danny Alexander.

Condolences to the SNP’s Drew Hendry, who always struck me as a decent, hard-working MP. Labour’s Michael Perera is an intelligent, astute candidate, who I am sure will return to pound the pavements in future campaigns. Reform UK candidate Dillan Hill squeezed out Tory Ruraidh Stewart into fifth place.

Can we draw any conclusions from the general election results in the Highlands for the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2026?

Well, local Scottish Parliament constituency members Kate Forbes and Fergus Ewing will not be thrilled by the depressing (from their perspectives) spectacle in the early hours of last Friday when 39 of their SNP MP colleagues were put to the sword. In fairness, both Kate and Fergus have strong majorities and healthy personal votes, but as we say on polling day, this can soon disappear, like snow off a dyke on a summer day, if there is a mood for change amongst the public across the country.

How it impacts party finances

Opposition parties in the Commons are entitled to financial support, based on their number of MPs, in order to do their job of keeping government in check- a key pilar of our democracy. The stunning general election results also have a significant effect on the financial coffers of the political parties.

Post-election, the SNP is a big loser. Last year, the party received £1.3 million of support under the ‘Short Money’ arrangements, but that is expected to drop to £350,000 - a considerable blow to their resources.

The Tories are set to miss out on more than £2 million in this taxpayer funding after losing over 200 of their MPs and millions of votes. Prior to the election, as Leader of the Opposition, Labour received more than £7.7 million in Short Money to pay for staff, travel and support.

The Lib Dems will hit the financial gold rush following their surge in MPs from 12 to 72. They will be in line for at least £2.3 million - more than double the amount they received last year.

Votes were counted three times for the Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire seat. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Votes were counted three times for the Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire seat. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Count needs to improve for 2026

Election counts are cruel and unusual punishments for candidates, agents, supporters and campaign staff. I guess they are not much fun for the dedicated and hard-working counting staff either.

I had my personal night to forget as a general election candidate locally in 1992. A helicopter carrying full ballot boxes crashed, causing massive delays in counting the votes. Then I called for a recount (my fault!). The result was finally declared at around 7am the day after the election.

I am not sure what happened at the Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire count this year to delay the result until last Saturday, by which time the UK Cabinet had already met, but all political parties will want to see a major improvement in the process before the 2026 Scottish Parliament elections.

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