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Declaration for both Badenoch and Strathspey seats are now expected later today

By Gavin Musgrove

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The scenes will be very different this time out to the General Election count at Inverness Leisure Centre in December 2019.
The scenes will be very different this time out to the General Election count at Inverness Leisure Centre in December 2019.

The results for the two Holyrood constituencies that cover Badenoch and Strathspey are now expected to be declared later today.

There are 73 first-past-the-post seats and 48 expect to declare on the first counting day including Inverness and Nairn including Strathspey which is being defended by SNP veteran Fergus Ewing.

The poll for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch seat, which Kate Forbes held for the SNP in the 2016 election, had been due to be announced tomorrow but the result is now expected late this afternoon.

A source in Ms Forbes' camp told the Strathy after the opening hour of the count: "It is looking good at the moment from the first round of ballot papers."

Covid-19 has resulted in big changes to the usual format of the counts across Scotland which got under way at 9am today rather than immediately after the polls closed.

Three separate count centres are being used in the Highlands to abide by government guidelines.

Inverness and Nairn constituency will be counted in the Inverness Leisure hall and the Highland Football Academy in Dingwall will be the count centre for the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross constituency.

A main marquee at Queen's Park will be used as the count centre for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency.

An additional marquee is also being erected at the park to enable a socially distanced staff support facility.

This arrangement also provides enhanced site security, which is essential for the count, as well as a Covid-safe environment.

No expected declaration times have been announced given that this year's election count is in uncharted waters.

In the past local results have usually been declared around six to seven hours after the closing of voting stations due to the longer distances involved in transporting the ballot boxes across the region to the count centres.

The counts for the regional list seats will take place tomorrow.

A total of 15 parties and two independent candidates are seeking election for the Highlands and Islands regional constituency to become list MSPs.

The parties fielding candidates are: Abolish the Scottish Parliament Party; Alba Party; All for Unity; Freedom Alliance – Integrity, Society, Economy; Reform UK; Restore Scotland; Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party; Scottish Family Party; Scottish Green Party; Scottish Labour Party; Scottish Liberal Democrats; Scottish Libertarian Party; Scottish National Party; Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition; UK Independence Party and independent candidates Hazel Mansfield and Andy Wightman.

Mr Ewing (SNP) was elected to the first Scottish Parliament in 1999 and has since successfully defended his seat four times.

He holds a majority of 10,857 on a turnout of 57.5 per cent.

The Badenoch seat is being defended for the first time by Ms Forbes (SNP), who won at the 2016 election with a majority of 9043 on a turnout of 61.3 per cent.

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