The Scottish Highlands finds itself unexpectedly in the political spotlight today as a key constituency result delays the final General Election result - although it will not change Labour's landslide victory.

Vote discrepancy led to the result for a new constituency - Inverness, Skye and Wester Ross - being abandoned and a recount was due to get underway today at 10am with a result expected in the early afternoon.

In the 2019 General Election the Liberal Democrats secured just 10% of the vote in the former Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency.

With 26,247 votes and a 47.9% share, it was a comfortable win for the SNP's Drew Hendry, with Lib Dem candidate Robert Rixon trailing in third place with 5,846 votes.

The SNP's Ian Blackford also retained his seat in the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency, taking 48.3% of the vote and securing double the number of votes of his nearest (Lib Dem) rival Craig Harrow.

This could all be about to change today amid predictions that Highland businessman and councillor Angus MacDonald will take the newly formed Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire seat.

Angus MacDonald will find out today if he has claimed a key Highland seatAngus MacDonald will find out today if he has claimed a key Highland seat (Image: freelancer)

The Liberal Democrats said hopes were high that Mr MacDonald would "retake Charles Kennedy's former seat and show that the Liberal Democrats are the strongest voice for the Highlands".

It would mean both Highland constituencies are under the control of the party, which has a long tradition of support in the region, heaping further misery on the SNP in Scotland

Jamie Stone retained his Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross seat, securing more than 22,000 votes compared to the next placed candidates, the SNP’s Lucy Beattie, who tallied, just over 12,000.

The 2015 General Election contest in Highland was mired by controversy with the Liberal Democrats accusing Ian Blackford of dog whistling about Kennedy's struggles  alcoholism.

Mr Kennedy died at the age of 55 just weeks after losing his seat.

Charles Kennedy was a popular figure in Lochaber Charles Kennedy was a popular figure in Lochaber (Image: PA)

"This is a massive story, it's probably the biggest thing in Scotland," said a party source on their expected win.

"I think people in the Highlands have felt that they've been ignored. I would say they have felt that the SNP became a Central Belt party.

"That was something that was said by Fergus Ewing and I suspect they have felt that they weren't being represented properly."

Drew Hendry, the SNP candidate for Inverness, will not be at today's recount as he is travelling to London with family on a pre-arranged visit. 

Conceding defeat he said last night that it had been an “absolute joy” serve the people of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey for the past 9 years.

Drew Hendry, SNP candidate for Inverness, Skye and Wester Ross Drew Hendry, SNP candidate for Inverness, Skye and Wester Ross (Image: PA)

While Mr Hendry was seen by many as a shoe-in for the seat, a raft of "unpopular" policies under the now dead in the water SNP-Green alliance has led to some questioning if the SNP has a grip on rural concerns.

His apparent reluctance to speak out about his party’s failure to dual the A9 is said to have angered many. 

"Tax payer money has been wasted on things like the creation of the National Park while capital funding for our infrastructure like new hospitals and better roads has been stopped," said one local. (The SNP has said the Westminster Government was responsible for this decision).

"Banning wood burning stoves, the short-term let legislation on businesses trying to survive after Covid...we made a decision on Thursday to put a shot across the SNP bow to say, you want our trust? Earn it."

Another Highland voter said he believed Mr MacDonald "will make a good MP" but said he had reservations about his "links to the landowning classes."

He said: "Drew Hendry is just not known in Lochaber and was invisible in the campaign here. 

"He is completely Inverness-centric and concentrates on his power base there. Other than nationalism, he has little to offer to the rural Highlands."

Michael Foxley, former leader of Highland Council, said Mr MacDonald had worked extremely hard to "get his name and ambitions out in Inverness."

He added: "As a MacDonald from Lochaber, he has campaigned for the past two years on important local issues in Skye and Lochaber: a new Belford hospital, lack of care home beds, trunk road improvements and the Corran ferry."

Kate Forbes, SNP MSP for Skye, Ross and Lochaber said "all eyes" were on the final Highland seat.

She congratulated Brendan O'Hara and Graham Leadbitter for their respective wins in Argyll, Bute and South Lochaber and Moray West, Nairn and Strathspey - both sharing parts of her own constituency.

The Herald travelled to Fort William during our series investigating depopulation and it was clear the Deputy First Minister retains a lot of support and has been praised for her efforts to drive forward the much-delayed plans to rebuild Belford Hospital.


Highland areas worst hit by depopulation revealed in new Census data 

SNP set out plan to halt Highland 'population emergency'

However, a victory for Angus MacDonald could align him with the popularity that his predecessor Charles Kennedy enjoyed in the Lochaber area.

Mr MacDonald was joined by Charles Kennedy's son Donald on the campaign trail.

The former MP, who died on June 1 2015, was not only a much-admired politician, but was considered "one of their own", his family having lived on the shores of Loch Linnhe for more than 200 years.

Mr MacDonald claims he can trace his Lochaber roots back 1000 years and both him and his son has been widely credited with helping revitalise Fort William with a new cinema and bookstore.

Hugh Dan MacLennan, a BBC Gaelic broadcaster, who went to Lochaber High when Kennedy was there, said he did not lose the election because of his alcoholism – “people were understanding up to a point” – or anything he had done, it was just the SNP tide." 

The tide may be about to turn back in his homeland.