The Scottish Conservatives have matched their best ever result at a Scottish Parliament election as new leader Douglas Ross maintained the 31-seat total won in 2016.

The party picked up an additional two seats on the regional lists to offset the loss of two constituencies and upped seats on the Highlands and Islands regional list.

Mr Ross was one of the four Tory MSPs to be elected from the area, the rest of whom served during the last parliamentary term.

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The SNP’s former Westminster leader Angus Robertson took Edinburgh Central, beating Scott Douglas, who was seeking to hold Ruth Davidson’s former seat.

John Scott lost his Ayr constituency to the SNP’s Siobhian Brown.

Mr Ross, who took over the party in August last year, said he will not “shy away” from fighting SNP plans for an independence referendum in the new parliamentary term.

Mr Ross will re-enter Holyrood on the Highlands and Islands regional list as his party upped its number of MSPs in the area.

He had previously been elected an MSP in 2016 before resigning his seat after winning Moray in the 2017 Westminster election.

Mr Ross said: “I’ll stop talking about independence when the SNP stop talking about independence.

“The fact that they put it front and centre of their election manifesto meant that I was going to respond to that.

“I’m not going to shy away from the SNP, I’m not going to hide from the crucial debate here in Scotland.

“But what I am going to put forward is a positive vision for our country, what we really can deliver as a whole parliament, as a whole country to secure the recovery that people here in Scotland desperately need after the 12 months we have been through together.”

The new MSP refused to be drawn on whether he would support legal action against a second independence referendum after Nicola Sturgeon pledged to “proceed with the legislation that is necessary”.

If Boris Johnson tried to stop it, she added, he would need to go to the Supreme Court.

Mr Ross said he would be supporting “protecting people’s jobs, investing in the NHS, raising our education standards” among other things which can currently be pursued in the Scottish Parliament.

He also reiterated he would continue to serve as an MP alongside his new position in Holyrood.

Speaking after his election, Mr Ross said: “We have had six weeks of extremely competitive and at times divisive debate, but I believe now people are looking for their MSPs, both in this region and across Scotland, to work together – to show the same unity that people across this country have shown in coming through the worst of this pandemic so far and looking towards our recovery as a country.”

Tactical voting was said to have helped contribute to an increase in the Tory’s share of the vote in this election.

Speaking to the PA news agency earlier in the day, Mr Ross said he believed the Alba Party’s introduction into Scottish politics had been more beneficial to the Greens, as it helped to illustrate to voters how the voting system operates.

READ MORE: Scottish election results: SNP are biggest party with 64 seats

Alex SalmondThe Scottish Tory leader said he believed the Alba Party and Alex Salmond helped the Scottish Greens (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Speaking at the count in Inverness, he said: “It certainly showed people that there was a real risk there, but it might actually be converse it wasn’t Alba that benefit from that but the Greens.

“Because Alba were also explaining that because of the system and the fact that it’s not a perfect system then you can vote for a party in the constituency and a different party on the list.

“Actually today I think at close of play the Greens have benefitted from the messaging that Alba were putting out at the start of this campaign.

On Alex Salmond, Mr Ross added: “He should never have come back – he was a totally unsuitable person to seek elected office again.

“I thought it was wrong for him to seek election again and the people of the northeast have made it very clear they don’t want him.”