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Liberal Democrat candidate privately acknowledged as likely winner of Inverness seat


By Scott Maclennan

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The 2024 election count hit the rocks leading to a postponement. Picture: Callum Mackay.
The 2024 election count hit the rocks leading to a postponement. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Count agents have widely credited Liberal Democrat Angus MacDonald with having pulled off a major upset and secured the Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire seat ahead of the SNP’s Drew Hendry.

But a botched ballot count means a second recount to make it official means that he will have to wait until tomorrow to know for sure if he has won while Mr Hendry is in the unenviable position of waiting for certainty he has not won.

The calculus is quite simple as by the end of the night Mr MacDonald had between three and four more boxes than Mr Hendry – in each box there are 500 ballots so the margin of victory was likely between 1500 and 2000 votes.

The shocking delay first emerged just after 6am when officials revealed that a “discrepancy” had been found between the verified vote tally and the actual vote tally – so the votes that were accepted did not match the total present at the end.

Votes can be rejected because they are unclear or spoiled. That has to be agreed under the close watch of representatives of the candidates. So when the numbers of verified and actual votes do not match unaccepted votes may have slipped through.

That is one scenario though there are many others but unfortunately the earlier vote check – technically called an accountancy check – was “unable to resolve the statistical anomaly”.

Returning Officer for Highland Derek Brown announces the count has been suspended until 10.30am tomorrow. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Returning Officer for Highland Derek Brown announces the count has been suspended until 10.30am tomorrow. Picture: Callum Mackay.

So returning officer Derek Brown first met with the candidates to give them the news as the waiting media was briefed about the next steps which at the time was expected to take another 90 minutes.

One counting agent revealed to the Courier that during the recount ballots for candidates had somehow become mixed-up and ended up in the wrong place, which is difficult to explain but it indicates that something had gone wrong earlier in the night.

Many present were left bewildered how that could have happened and there was a lack of information in what was becoming an ever more embarrassing situation – especially given confidence earlier in the night that it would be an early finish.

Leading officials were seen conferring as they discussed the next move for about 45 minutes until the candidates and their agents were called to a meeting and were told there would be no announcement.

Now the second recount will be started tomorrow at 10.30am when it looks like the whole process will be restarted from the beginning.


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