BEAMING Scottish Nationalist Christine Grahame secured what she described as a “double whammy” in her victory in the new Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale Constituency.
Her win – with a majority of 4,924 over defending Lib Dem Jeremy Purvis – leaves the Borders without a Lib Dem MSP and Midlothian without a Labour MSP for the first time since the rebirth of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore remains the only Lib Dem parliamentarian since David Steel broke the Conservative hold back in 1965.
Grahame coasted to victory as the Lib Dem vote collapsed, with disgruntled party followers switching their allegiance to the SNP. It was a massive swing. And no matter how the party expected defeat, the weight of the disaster had them reeling.
Although the result wasn’t declared until around 8.45 on Friday morning it had been obvious from around 3am that Grahame had fulfilled her promise to capture the seat she has coveted for so long.
It realised the long-serving South of Scotland List MSP’s ambition to secure a first-past-the-post triumph.
And at times looking tired and strained during the long count and after an active campaign she smiled and declared: “The word historic is used too often, but this has been a historic night for Scotland.
“For the first time there is no Borders Lib Dem at Holyrood and for the first no Midlothian Labour MSP at Holyrood. That’s what I call a double whammy.” Ousted Purvis said he remained a very, very proud Liberal and proud to be a member of a movement which, although it had taken a battering, would return with the help of young people. Purves delayed his arrival at the count until 5.35am. When I pressed him on his arrival that it had been a disaster locally and across the country, he refused to use the word ‘disaster’, but admitted: “The people do not want me and I respect that absolutely. Overall, it will take the next few hours, days and weeks to come to grips with what has happened.”
Perhaps by accident or design, Purvis was not wearing a party rosette and his despondency was all too obvious. But he smiled, was polite and courteous in defeat, and said he remained loyal to his party.
Calculations by experts following boundary changes following the 2007 election in which Purvis just managed to hold on to his seat, actually made this a notional SNP seat ahead of Thursday’s polling.
But the leading combatants know it was most definitely a Lib Dem disaster of a fearsome magnitude and a jubilant gain beyond their dreams for the Scottish National Party.
The also-rans – Labour and Tories – saw their share of the vote fall, the Tories taking the bigger hit.
As fresh staff took their seats to begin the regional list count Grahame was eager to expound on her victory. On video she told TheSouthern’s website why she believed she had won: “I have been very active in representing the Borders over 12 years. I think the Liberal party lost a lot of votes to myself and people just not turning out for them. Labour also went down and the SNP was on the rise. Put all those together and I can recognise why we have virtually a 5,000 majority, which is extraordinary.”
So, what of the challenges ahead? She told us: “I think it will be just as it was before, but more of it, which is representing causes across the constituency and also individual constituents. I have done this for 12 years I know what the job means, I just think there will be more of it.
“Although I think in this particular climate, there will be challenges for people about jobs, cost of living, VAT rises, fuel prices, so tough times lie ahead and the Liberal/Tory coalition is making these deep cuts too fast, too deep, and we will be in difficulties for a while. So it’s to try and help people as best we can.”
Jeremy Purvis told us: “I think it is a quirk that I lost with a higher share of the vote than I won with in 2003, when I was first elected. There were a number of factors, of course, but I am not apportioning any blame or making any excuses.
“It was my name on the ballot paper, I was standing in this constituency, and people have decided that they did not want me to continue as their MSP, so I respect that and the responsibility lies absolutely with me.
“I had made it known that I was fighting the constituency alone. I fought it to win, I didn’t, but I have been profoundly grateful for the faith that people have put in me.”