Allegations against predecessor didn’t cross my mind, says new SNP MSP

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The SNP’s newest MSP has said concerns that accusations against her predecessor Mark McDonald could have impacted the party’s majority were “not something that crossed my mind”.

Jackie Dunbar, an Aberdeen City councillor who will keep that role until the next local election, won the Aberdeen Donside seat in the Scottish Parliament in the second result announced on Friday.

Taking 18,514 votes – a 51.6% share – she beat Conservative Harriet Cross and Labour’s Heather Herbert, who secured 9,488 votes and 5,505 respectively.

Mr McDonald won the seat for the SNP five years ago but quit the party in 2018 and was briefly suspended by Parliament after being accused of inappropriate behaviour by three women.

“Mark worked hard for the constituency when he was an SNP representative and also when he was an independent.

“I never, never heard anything from anybody about it.”

Isobel Davidson took 2,162 votes for the Liberal Democrats – having also been a candidate for the same constituency in 2016 – with Lucas Grant securing 240 votes for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

On the increased turnout of 53.08%, Ms Dunbar added: “I’m delighted that it was higher than what it has been, hopefully it means that folk are engaging in politics more.

“Our First Minister I think has done a fantastic job over the past year, during Covid and her message was strong that if you wanted her to continue to lead us through this pandemic to come out and vote – Aberdeen Donside have and I’m delighted they did.”

The SNP also held Banffshire and Buchan Coast, with Karen Adam succeeding the retiring Stewart Stevenson – but by a short margin of only a few hundred votes.

Ms Adam received 14,920 votes – a 45.2% share and 9.9% down on 2016- with Conservative candidate Mark Findlater winning 14,148, a 42.9% share and 10.7% swing.

During her victory speech, the new MSP delivered a message to her father in sign language before giving her assurances about an independence referendum in the next Parliament.

She also joined Ms Dunbar in praising Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Alex Salmond watches votes being counted
Alba leader Alex Salmond watches votes being counted (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The former first minister is top of his party’s North East Scotland regional list, with the hopes of creating a “supermajority” for independence in the next Scottish Parliament.

On Friday morning he walked among several tables in the venue with a clipboard as he observed peach regional list ballots being counted, so called because of the colour of the paper they are printed on.

Later in the evening, Kevin Stewart was elected for the third time to represent Aberdeen Central in the constituency’s highest turnout (55.94%, 31,781 votes cast).

Kevin Stewart
SNP’s Kevin Stewart reacts after winning his seat for Aberdeen Central (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Stewart said: “I think the Labour Party in Scotland has lost its way. We see Anas Sarwar trying to avoid one of the biggest questions that we face and that’s the question around about the constitution.

“Voters talk about the constitution and I think that Labour voters are rather unhappy that Mr Sarwar seems to be sitting on the fence on that issue and of course those folks who take a unionst line have moved to the Conservatives.”

When also asked what it was like sharing the room with Mr Salmond on Friday, he simply said: “It’s a big counting room so you don’t have to go near or speak to anyone.”

Ballot box
One of the first boxes delivered to the venue broke open as it was taken from the van (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ballot boxes began to arrive at the arena shortly before 11pm on Thursday in cars, vans and First Buses which queued up outside.

One of the first boxes delivered to the venue, from an Aberdeenshire Council polling station, broke open as it was taken from the van transporting votes – but none were lost during the mishap.

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