THE MP with the smallest majority in the House of Commons at the general election has avoided a legal challenge to the result.

The SNP’s Stephen Gethins, who held on to North East Fife by just two votes, had faced a possible challenge from the losing Liberal Democrat candidate, Elizabeth Riches.

However Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie announced the party had decided not to launch proceedings, despite receiving legal advice that it had grounds for a challenge.

Loading article content

There had been a dispute over the validity of a ballot paper, a polling place had been moved without alerting voters, and the returning officer refused to grant a further recount.

The LibDems also reacted angrily after the 2015 election when their then sole MP, Alistair Carmichael, was the subject of a legal challenge to overturn his win in Orkney and Shetlands.

The former Scottish Secretary had lied during the campaign about not being party to a damaging - and false - leak that the First Minister wanted the Tories to win the election.

Regarding North East Fife, Mr Rennie said: “We have decided there is insufficient evidence to justify a lengthy and expensive legal challenge.

“It would be expensive for us, expensive to the taxpayer and an inconvenience to the voters, so we could not sanction that without sufficient evidence to warrant it.

"The next election will be the closest contest in the whole of the United Kingdom. A couple of votes will decide whether we have a Liberal Democrat MP or a SNP MP.

"Despite the enormous investment she made in the campaign and agony of losing by the smallest of margins, Elizabeth Riches maintained her dignity and composure throughout.

“It is that exemplary behaviour over the last week as much as during the election campaign that proves we were 100 per cent correct to choose her our candidate.”

Mr Gethins, a former special adviser to Alex Salmond and the SNP’s Europe spokesman, won the constituency for the first time in 2015 by 4,344 votes.

However Mr Rennie regained the equivalent Holyrood seat from the SNP a year later, and it had been one of the top targets for the LibDems last week.