Conservative candidate Rachael Hamilton’s gamble paid off on Friday morning, as she rode the local Tory wave to success in the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire Scotish Parliament by-election.
Mrs Hamilton, 46, had to give up her south Scotland list seat to fight this seat, which became vacant when John Lamont resigned to stand for Westminster, and it certainly paid off, with the hotelier taking 20,658 votes, increasing the Conservative majority over the SNP from 7,736 – held by Mr Lamont over Paul Wheelhouse in 2016 – to 9,338.
The SNP’s Gail Hendry came second with 11,320 votes, while Labour’s Sally Prentice (3,406 votes) leapfrogged the Lib Dems’ Catriona Bhatia (3,196 votes) to take third place.
The by-election showed much the same patterns that were happening in the local general election vote, as well as the wider national picture.
In her acceptance address, she said: “I’d like to pay tribute to my opposition – to Gail, to Catriona and to Sally, for being bold, for being courageous and for being willing.
“This is only the second time an all-female line-up has featured in the history of the Scottish Parliament. We do need to get more women involved in politics and I hope that each one of us has inspired more adacious women to step forward.
“Over the last seven weeks, we have put in thousands of steps and knocked on thousands of doors.”
She thanked her election team, and then paid tribute to the voters “the ones that matter the most”.
She said: “From Newtown to Newcastleton, from Ettrick to Eyemouth, I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you for putting your trust in me for this area,
“I have biog shoes to fill, following John Lamont into this role, and I promise John I won’t let him or this constituency down.
“I will work hard ... I look forward to rolling up my sleeves to do my best for the Borders.”
Mrs Hendry said: “I’m proud of the campaign we have run.
“I feel it was a positive campaign, run on a range of issues, rather than just one single issue, unlike some of the other parties, and I think that is what we will continue to do as the third party in the UK.”
There was personal heartbreak at the start of election week for the 53-year-old lecturer at Borders College, as her 96-year-old father Robert passed away.
She said: “Personally, it has been a difficult few weeks for my family because of personal things, and I’d like to thank them as I have the most supportive family you could wish for.
“The past two weeks has made us realise that there are some things more important than politics in our lives.”
She added: “Politics, like life, is about belief, and just because you have a challenging night does not mean you lose your belief.
“So when I see vulnerable people being picked on by a right-wing Westminster government, I will keep fighting for them.”
Both Mrs Bhatia and Ms Prentice increased their parties’ votes in the by-election.