Newly elected MSP Maree Todd pledges to represent everyone in massive Caitness, Sutherland and Ross constituency after winning the seat for SNP; LibDem challenger Molly Nolan appeals to new MSPs not to unite for post-Covid recovery
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NEWLY elected MSP Maree Todd declared it "the privilege of my life" to be elected to represent the people of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross – and pledged to work for everyone in the sprawling constituency regardless of whether they voted for her or not.
Ms Todd, who had served as a Highlands and Islands SNP, fought off a strong challenge from Liberal Democrat Molly Nolan, polling 15,889 votes to the runner-ups 13,289.
The Tories, represented by Struan Mackie, placed third on 5170 votes ahead of Labour's Marion Donaldson, who claimed 2016.
Ms Todd, the former Highlands and Islands regional MSP and children's minister, will now be returned to Holyrood to represent the constituency, replacing Gail Ross, who chose to stand down for family reasons.
Speaking after the declaration, Ms Todd said: "It is the privilege of my life to be elected to represent the people of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. I’ve been elected to represent everyone in this constituency, regardless of whether they voted for me, and I promise I will do this to the best of my ability.
“The journey to get to this point has only confirmed to me what I always knew about this part of Scotland I call home, we are full of passionate, innovative and committed folk who all want the same thing - the Highlands to be the best possible place to grow up, live and work in.
“I will work for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross to ensure this ambition is realised and our voice is heard in Holyrood.
“Despite first appearances, we politicians generally want the same things for our constituents, regardless of party. We want people to be healthy, wealthy, and live in peace with each other. How we get there is where we differ but fundamentally, we share more with each other than sets us apart. I want to thank my fellow candidates for a respectful debate. Not once did any of us make personal comments, derogatory remarks or consciously make misleading statements, which is testimony to the calibre of candidates here.
“I look forward to hitting the ground running - thank you.”
Ms Nolan took the chance to say that the people and recovery of the constituency should come first.
"I would like to thank all the candidates," she said. "Healthy debate is a good thing for our country, and we have proved it is alive and well in the Highlands. To Maree Todd - many congratulations.
"People across Caithness, Sutherland and Ross deserve an MSP that will put them first. I genuinely hope you are successful in doing that. Scottish Liberal Democrats should be proud of our campaign.
"We did what was right: speaking up for rural communities, demanding better healthcare provision and challenging to do more on the climate emergency.
"But turning around a majority of nearly 4000 in one of the largest seats across Scotland in just a matter of months is no mean feat. I am sorry we couldn't do it this time.
"We don’t yet know the outcome of the election.
"However, we know how hard the pandemic has been for so many families across the Highlands.
"My plea to those elected today is therefore simple – don’t be consumed by the arguments of the past. Unite people and put the recovery first.
"Finally, I would like to thank my family who have been my rock in this campaign. My fantastic team who have been vital in making our campaign happen.
"The countless volunteers across the country who aided our efforts. And of course the people of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. You do not deserve to be forgotten, and despite today’s result, I remain on your side."
The far north saw a turnout of 36,993 for the constituency vote which equates to 64.8 per cent of eligible voters.