Wealthy Tories with the Queen as a neighbour save the Union… for now: Victory in Aberdeen West where the Royals holiday at Balmoral stops SNP majority
- Aberdeenshire West is the constituency that takes in the Queen’s Highland home
- Win would have given Sturgeon firm moral mandate to hold repeat of the indyref
- But the SNP was kept at bay by the Conservative incumbent, Alexander Burnett
- Many Labour and Liberal Dem voters temporarily ‘lent’ vote to the Conservatives
In the face of a Nationalist tsunami sweeping Scotland, one tiny pocket of the nation managed to thwart the SNP’s bid to seal an overall majority and put a dent in its bid for separation.
Aberdeenshire West – the constituency that takes in the Queen’s Highland home of Balmoral – had been a key target for Nicola Sturgeon and a win would have given her a firm moral mandate to hold a repeat of the 2014 independence referendum.
But voters just outside the Granite City threw their weight behind the union with the SNP kept at bay in second place by the Conservative incumbent, Alexander Burnett, who even managed to increase his vote share.
Tactical voting by pro-Union supporters played a part, with many Labour and Liberal Democrat voters temporarily ‘lending’ their vote to the Conservatives who stood the best chance against the separatists.
Crown connection: The Queen’s Balmoral summer holiday home, pictured above, lies within the constituency, which had been a key target for Nicola Sturgeon
Last night, Mr Burnett, who saw his share of the vote go up 9.1 per cent, said he was ‘absolutely delighted’ at the ‘resounding support for his party’ in the constituency, which was the only seat in the whole of the north east of Scotland that the SNP failed to win.
He said: ‘If we have the mantle or title that stopped the SNP getting a majority, I am happy to take that.
‘I am under no illusions that some of the people who voted for me are not always people who vote Conservative and I’m very grateful and appreciative to Liberal Democrats and Labour who lent me their vote this time.’
The constituency takes in Royal Deeside in the south, including the Balmoral estate, widely thought to be the Queen’s favourite residence.
While famously never entering into political debate, the monarch said in 2014 ahead of the Scottish independence referendum that she hoped ‘people will think very carefully about the future’.
The area’s rich Royal heritage boosts its tourism, while the local oil and gas industry has helped make it one of the most affluent areas in the country.
One key issue was thought to be Brexit, with the impact on food exports from the largely agricultural area thought to be an influence on how people might vote. But the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on tourism, concerns about the oil and gas industry in a post-Covid recovery and views on independence also all played a part.
Mr Burnett, a Banchory-based property developer and business owner, was up against Fergus Mutch, the SNP’s former head of communications, who lives in Braemar.
A map showing the results in Scotland. Many Labour and Liberal Democrat voters temporarily ‘lent’ their vote to the Conservatives who stood the best chance against the separatists
The law graduate previously worked as a parliamentary assistant to Alex Salmond when he was Scotland’s First Minister. In the end, Mr Burnett polled 19,709 votes to Mr Mutch’s 16,319.
Tactical voting in Galloway and West Dumfries is also thought to have played a part in incumbent Finlay Carson not only seeing off a challenge by the SNP’s Emma Harper but increasing his majority.
His win now completes a Tory blue frontline along the border between Scotland and England, while much of the rest of the country is SNP yellow.
Ms Sturgeon was hoping to reach the 65-seat majority mark to give her a stronger mandate to hold a repeat of the 2014 independence referendum, despite Boris Johnson saying now is not the time.
She is certain to remain First Minister, possibly pursuing a coalition with the pro-independence Greens, setting up a constitutional battle for Scotland’s future.
Ms Sturgeon upped the ante last night, by warning that any legal attempts to block a new referendum would ‘fly in the face of Scottish democracy.’ She has vowed to push ahead with plans for a Scottish referendum, while the PM insisted he would not back the ‘irresponsible’ move that could break up the union.
Any attempt by Scottish politicians unilaterally to try to hold a referendum would lead to a Supreme Court battle between Holyrood and Westminster.