Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 09:47 UK

MPs hold Highlands and Islands seats

Ballot boxes
The election has left the political map in the Highlands and Islands

The Liberal Democrats and SNP have held on to their seats in the Highlands and Islands.

In the Western Isles, the SNP's Angus MacNeil increased his majority. The Conservatives lost their deposit.

Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander more than doubled his majority in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey.

The party's John Thurso also held Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, and Charles Kennedy held Ross, Skye and Lochaber, but both with reduced votes.

In the Western Isles, Labour failed to improve on their past performance, but the independent Christian candidate managed to secure more than 1,400 votes.

The result was declared in Gaelic, before being repeated in English.

We will continue to work as hard as we can whatever the result
Danny Alexander
Liberal Democrat MP

On Wednesday, there had been concerns volcanic ash drifting from Iceland would ground helicopters hired to fly ballot boxes from outlying islands to the count in Stornoway on Lewis.

The islands council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, had a contingency plan to deliver the boxes by sea and then road. However, the threat to flights did not materialise.

After increasing his majority, Mr MacNeil said it was a good result for the SNP, his staff and campaign team.

He said: "We have worked hard over the last five years, we have worked hard during the campaign.

"We have had a positive campaign."

In Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, the SNP increased their share of the vote while support for Labour declined.

Mr Alexander said it was a "huge honour and privilege" to serve the constituency and to be re-elected.

He added: "The values we campaigned on - the values of fairness and of tolerance - are values that have resonance in this community.

The Western Isles result would not have been declared until midday Friday if restrictions on flights due to volcanic ash had continued
Across the three parliamentary constituencies in the Highland Council area, 21,908 people had registered to vote by post. That was 9,734 more than at the general election in May 2005
Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has been re-elected for the seventh consecutive time

"We will continue to work as hard as we can whatever the result."

The Liberal Democrats also held on to Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross - but with a reduced margin.

Mr Thurso, who has been the local MP since 2001, took 41% of the vote - almost 5,000 votes ahead of second placed Labour.

But while it was a majority, there was a swing to Labour and Mr Thurso's share of the vote fell by just more than 9%. In 2005 he got just over half of all votes cast.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Mr Kennedy was returned as MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber for the seventh consecutive time with a majority of about 13,000.

However, he lost several hundred votes, while Labour, SNP and Conservatives all picked up extra votes.

Mr Kennedy said the drop in support had not been unexpected.

He said: "Five years ago as party leader you are on the box every night of the week.

"When you don't have that profile now you expect it - for natural causes - to go down a bit."

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