Region Overview

The Highlands and Islands Region is a geographic behemoth, covering around half of Scotland’s land area. It includes all of the three Islands Councils – Orkney, Shetland and Western – and Highland, plus most of Argyll and Bute (the Lomond area is missing) and Moray (missing the area around Buckie).

Despite that tremendous geographic extent, this is by far the smallest region in terms of population. That isn’t a mere reflection of rurality, but rather partly down to the infamous Highland Clearances where landlords deliberately destroyed communities which had existed for centuries, sending them to the Lowlands or overseas to make way for sheep farming. This was not without strong resistance from many of the residents, with Land Reform becoming the key political priority by the late 19th century.

That the Liberals adopted that policy as their own would gain them long-lasting support, especially amongst crofters. They would also find strong support in the Northern Isles, although the Norse-descended, Scots speaking peoples of those islands differed greatly from the Gaels of the Highlands and Western Isles. Even at their lowest ebb in the 50’s when they had just 6 MPs across the UK, one of those was Orkney and Shetland. As they began to revive in the 60’s, this was first seen in Highland seats, and by the 90’s the freshly merged Liberal Democrats had become dominant in western and northern Highlands.

At the same time, the SNP tended to be very strong in Moray. They also had enough support across the region that, during the First Past the Post era of European Elections, their solitary MEP Winnie Ewing represented the region. Labour had pockets of support in Caithness, Sutherland and Inverness, and the two parties regularly battled it out for the Western Isles. Even when various strands of Liberalism were the strongest force in the Highlands, the region was often more politically diverse than the Central Lowlands.

In line with general Westminster patterns, the first election saw the Lib Dems sweep to victory in most consituencies, winning both Northern Isles seats plus three of the five covering the mainland. The SNP took the other two, holding Moray and wresting the Inverness seat from Labour, compared to the 1997 UK General Election, though Labour won the Western Isles. Interestingly enough, the Lib Dems came third in the proportional list vote, with the SNP leading and Labour second. That meant those two parties won the lion’s share of list seats, leaving the remaining two for the conservatives.


5 Liberal Democrat (all Constituency)
4 SNP (2 Constituency, 2 Regional)
4 Labour (3 Regional, 1 Constituency)
2 Conservative (all Regional)

In terms of MSPs elected, the Highlands and Islands were actually tied for the least diverse, against historic trend. There were no changes to constituencies and the SNP managed to hold on better than elsewhere, so it was Labour who lost a list seat, whilst the difference was made up by a Green MSP.


5 Liberal Democrat (all Constituency)
4 SNP (2 Constituency, 2 Regional)
3 Labour (2 Regional, 1 Constituency)
2 Conservative (all Regional)
1 Green (Regional)

As the rainbow faded in 2007, the region went back to the four Westminster parties. Growth for the SNP saw them gain the Western Isles from Labour and Argyll and Bute from the Lib Dems, giving them a lead in seats for the first time despite it being their third lead in votes.


6 SNP (4 Constituency, 2 Regional)
4 Liberal Democrat (all Constituency)
3 Labour (all Regional)
2 Conservative (all Regional)

As part of the SNP’s surprise 2011 majority, the complete collapse of the Lib Dems saw them lose all of their mainland constituencies, only holding onto the two Northern Isles seats. With Labour dropping a seat, the Conservatives remaining relatively weak, and no Green breakthrough, the SNP also won three of the list seats, giving them a commanding nine out of fifteen seats overall.


9 SNP (6 Constituency, 3 Regional)
2 Liberal Democrat (all Constituency)
2 Labour (all Regional)
2 Conservative (all Regional)

Though they held all of their constituencies, this region saw one of the SNP’s steepest drops in terms of the list vote, and thus the loss of two seats. A near doubling of the Conservative vote handed them an additional seat, whilst SNP MSP-turned-Green John Finnie held his seat under that new banner.


7 SNP (6 Constituency, 1 Regional)
3 Conservative (all Regional)
2 Liberal Democrat (all Constituency)
2 Labour (all Regional)
1 Green (Regional)

As with almost every other region in Scotland, no constituencies changed hands in Highlands & Islands in 2021. However, Shetland became a marginal seat for the first time at a full election, with a massive swing to the SNP and against the sitting Lib Dems. Hell may very well freeze over in 2026, at this rate. Over on the list vote, the Conservatives experienced solid growth, and found themselves gaining a seat at Labour’s expense, the latter dropping below 10% and being left with just one MSP in a region for the first time. The Greens also experienced a much poorer election here than in any other part of Scotland, barely increasing their vote versus 2016 – perhaps in part due to former Green MSP Andy Wightman contesting the region as an Independent.


7 SNP (6 Constituency, 1 Regional)
4 Conservative (all Regional)
2 Lib Dem (all Constituency)
1 Labour (Regional)
1 Green (Regional)

Region Map

Overall Regional Result 2021

Regional List Vote and MSPs Elected


#1: Conservative - Douglas Ross
#2: Conservative - Edward Mountain
#3: Labour - Rhoda Grant
#4: Conservative - Donald Cameron
#5: Green - Ariane Burgess
#6: Conservative - Jamie Halcro Johnston
#7: SNP - Emma Roddick

Constituency Vote

Total MSPs Elected

7 SNP (6 Constituency, 1 Regional)
4 Conservative (all Regional)
2 Lib Dem (all Constituency)
1 Labour (Regional)
1 Green (Regional)

Argyll and Bute

2021 Results

2021 MSP & Majority


SNP - Jenni Minto
Majority: 8963 (26.7%)
Turnout: 67.7%

2021 Candidates

SNP: Jenni Minto
Conservative: Donald Cameron
Liberal Democrat: Alan Reid
Labour: Lewis Whyte

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross

2021 Results

2021 MSP & Majority


SNP - Maree Todd
Majority: 2591 (7.0%)
Turnout: 64.7%

2021 Candidates

SNP: Maree Todd
Liberal Democrat: Molly Nolan
Conservative: Struan Mackie
Labour: Marion Donaldson
Freedom Alliance: Tina McCaffery
Libertarian: Harry Christian

Na h-Eileanan an Iar

2021 Results

2021 MSP & Majority


SNP - Alasdair Allan
Majority: 3441 (23.7%)
Turnout: 66.1%

2021 Candidates

SNP: Alasdair Allan
Labour: Shaun Fraser
Conservative: Gavin Berkenheger
Independent: Callum MacMillan
Liberal Democrat: Neil Mitchison

Inverness and Nairn

2021 Results

2021 MSP & Majority


SNP - Fergus Ewing
Majority: 9114 (19.9%)
Turnout: 64.4%

2021 Candidates

SNP: Fergus Ewing
Conservative: Edward Mountain
Labour: Rhoda Grant
Green: Ariane Burgess
Liberal Democrat: David Gregg
Restore Scotland: Andrew MacDonald

Moray

2021 Results

2021 MSP & Majority


SNP - Richard Lochhead
Majority: 3164 (7.7%)
Turnout: 65.0%

2021 Candidates

SNP: Richard Lochhead
Conservative: Tim Eagle
Liberal Democrat: Sheila Ritchie
Labour: Jo Kirby
UKIP: Robert Stephenson

Orkney Islands

2021 Results

2021 MSP & Majority


Lib Dem - Liam McArthur
Majority: 3869 (33.4%)
Turnout: 65.4%

2021 Candidates

Liberal Democrat: Liam McArthur
SNP: Robert Leslie
Conservative: Sam Brown
Labour: Coilla Drake

Shetland Islands

2021 Results

2021 MSP & Majority


Lib Dem - Beatrice Wishart
Majority: 806 (6.8%)
Turnout: 65.7%

2021 Candidates

Liberal Democrat: Beatrice Wishart
SNP: Tom Wills
Conservative: Nick Tulloch
Labour: Martin Kerr
Independent: Peter Tait
Restore Scotland: Brian Nugent

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch

2021 Results

2021 MSP & Majority


SNP - Kate Forbes
Majority: 15861 (36.8%)
Turnout: 68.7%

2021 Candidates

SNP: Kate Forbes
Conservative: Jamie Halcro Johnston
Liberal Democrat: Denis Rixson
Labour: John Erskine

List Seat Allocation Process

To allocate list seats using the D’Hondt method, each party’s share of the vote is divided by one more than the number of seats they’ve won so far in the process. This is an important part of how the list seats then more fairly represent the diversity of views amongst voters. List votes cast for a party that has won lots of constituency seats are not “wasted”, they just aren’t needed to give their voters fair representation.

When allocating the first list seat, this starts with the number of constituencies won by each party:

  • The SNP won 6 constituencies, so their vote is divided by 7.
  • The Lib Dems won 2 constituencies, so their vote is divided by 3.
  • No one else won any constituencies, so their votes aren’t divided.

That then gives us this (removing the parties that clearly don’t have enough votes for clarity):

Since the Conservatives have the highest total here, they receive the first regional list seat. We add that to their total, giving them 1 seat overall so far, and therefore for the next round of allocation their share is divided by 2.

The Conservatives again have the highest total, so they receive the second regional list seat. That gives them 2 seats overall so far, and therefore for the next round of allocation their share is divided by 3.

Labour have the highest total, so they receive the third regional list seat. That gives them 1 seat overall so far, and therefore for the next round of allocation their share is divided by 2.

The Conservatives have the highest total, so they receive the fourth regional list seat. We add that to their total, giving them 3 seats overall so far, and therefore for the next round of allocation their share is divided by 4.

The Greens have the highest total, so they receive the fifth regional list seat. That gives them 1 seat overall so far, and therefore for the next round of allocation their share is divided by 2.

The Conservatives have the highest total, so they receive the sixth regional list seat. We add that to their total, giving them 4 seats overall so far, and therefore for the next round of allocation their share is divided by 5.

The SNP have the highest total, so they receive the seventh and final regional list seat. We add that to their total, giving them 7 seats overall. Therefore, the final distribution of seats across the Highlands & Islands region is:

7 SNP (6 Constituency, 1 Regional)
4 Conservative (all Regional)
2 Lib Dem (all Constituency)
1 Labour (Regional)
1 Green (Regional)

Regional List Candidates 2021

  1. Emma Roddick
  2. Kate Forbes
  3. Maree Todd
  4. Fergus Ewing
  5. Tom Wills
  6. Mike MacKenzie
  7. Robert Leslie
  8. Rhiannon Spear
  9. Jamie Szymkowiak
  10. Qasim Hanif
  11. Ken Gowans
  12. Sarah Fanet
  1. Douglas Ross
  2. Edward Mountain
  3. Donald Cameron
  4. Jamie Halcro Johnston
  5. Tim Eagle
  6. Ella Robertson McKay
  7. Struan Mackie
  8. Sam Brown
  9. Gavin Berkenheger
  10. Nick Tulloch
  1. Rhoda Grant
  2. John Erskine
  3. Marion Donaldson
  4. Jo Kirby
  5. Coilla Drake
  6. Lewis Whyte
  7. Shaun Fraser
  1. Ariane Burgess
  2. Anne Thomas
  3. Fabio Villani
  4. Steve Sankey
  5. Debra Nicolson
  6. Sand Ownsett
  7. Topher Dawson
  8. Lisa Jane Mead
  9. Chris Ballance
  10. Isabella Sumsion
  11. Phyl Meyer
  12. Luna Martin
  1. Alan Reid
  2. Molly Nolan
  3. Denis Rixson
  4. William Sinclair
  5. Sheila Ritchie
  6. David Gregg
  7. Neil Mitchison
  1. Kirk Torrance
  2. Craig Berry
  3. Josh Robertson
  4. Judith Reid
  1. Moira Ramage
  2. Patricia Watson
  3. Robbie Munro
  4. Donald Boyd
  5. Paul Burrows
  6. Alastair Kennedy
  7. Paul Bradburn
  1. Sandra Skinner
  2. Les Durance
  3. Kate Brownlie
  4. Catherine Mount
  1. Robert Stephenson
  2. Robert Scorer
  3. Michael Burger de Frémol
  4. Duncan Geddes
  5. Alan Breeze
  6. Bryan Foster
  1. Tina McCaffery
  2. Emma Idzidowska
  3. Phil Breed
  4. Gary Cheesman
  5. Anne McCloskey
  1. Brian Nugent
  2. Andrew Macdonald
  1. Michael Willis
  2. Phillipp Tanzer
  3. Shena McLelland
  4. Sophie Hendry
  5. Dolores Hughes
  1. Harry Christian
  2. Calum Liptrot
  1. Sean Robertson
  2. Yolanda Piotrowicz
  3. Luke Ivory
  • Hazel Mansfield
  • Andy Wightman