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The BBC's Andrew Cassell reports
"This was the first by-election gain for the Tories since 1967"
 real 28k

Tory candidate John Scott's victory speech
"Labour speak the language of devolution but they don't understand the word"
 real 28k

Political analyst Professor John Curtice
"A bomb has been put under the table of the Scottish Executive"
 real 28k

Conservative Party Chariman Michael Angram
"It's a humiliation for Tony Blair, the Labour Party and the Executive here"
 real 28k

Friday, 17 March, 2000, 03:02 GMT
Tories walking on Ayr
John Scott, Susan Deacon
John Scott and Health Minister Susan Deacon
The Conservatives have snatched Ayr from Labour, giving them their first directly-elected seat in the Scottish Parliament.

The Tories' candidate John Scott polled 12,580 votes and won with a majority of 3,344.

The Scottish National Party came second with 9,236, beating Labour into third place on 7,054 votes.

Vote share May 1999/March 2000
Labour - 38.1%/22%
Tory - 38%/39.4%
SNP - 19.5%/29%
Lib Dems - 4.4%/2.5%
Turnout - 66%/57%
The Scottish Socialist Party, which has one MSP, secured fourth place on 1,345 votes.

The Liberal Democrats were fifth with 800. Other candidates polled 885 votes.

In his victory speech, Mr Scott said: "This result signals that the revival of the Scottish Tory party is well and truly under way.

"If tonight's results are repeated across the country at the next General Election, we will once again see Scottish Conservative seats in double figures.

"This result is a stunning endorsement of David McLetchie's leadership in Scotland and indeed William Hague's understanding and sensitivity to the particular needs and priorities of the party in Scotland.

John Scott
The winner delivers his victory speech
"It shows that both men are making devolution work, in stark contrast to Tony Blair and Donald Dewar, who speak the language of devolution but don't understand the word."

Labour took the constituency at last May's election by just 25 votes, the smallest majority in the Scottish Parliament, but the winner, Ian Welsh, resigned in December.

Turnout this time was 57%, compared with 66% in May.

Last year, the Conservatives returned 18 MSPs from the regional lists, created by the system of proportional representation, but failed to win any constituency seats outright.

Tory 'one-hit blunder'

The win gives them their first by-election gain from a rival party in Scotland since 1967.

The by-election was described as the public's first real chance to give their opinions of the Scottish Executive's performance since devolution.

Labour's campaign co-ordinator, Andy Kerr, blamed a range of factors for his party's defeat. "This is mid-term and this is what happens at by-elections," he said.

Rita Miller
Labour's Rita Miller: Down in third
"We still feel very confident in terms of the Westminster election and we believe John Scott to be a one-hit blunder."

Rita Miller, the Labour candidate, said: "We fought this election on the issues and refused to be diverted in spite of the wishes of others who wanted us to be diverted.

"Labour has delivered for the people of Ayr and will continue to deliver for the people of Ayr."

'Keep the Clause' influence

Chief among the issues on the hustings was the executive's intention to repeal Section 28, the law which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Stagecoach millionaire Brian Souter, leading supporter of the anti Section 28 repeal campaign, said: "There is no doubt this was the 'keep the clause' by-election.

Jim Mather
All smiles from the SNP's Jim Mather
"The party that fought repeal won. The major parties who supported repeal lost."

SNP leader, Alex Salmond, said: "The SNP have done astonishingly well. To come anywhere near winning this by-election would be the most sensational result."

His party's candidate, Jim Mather, said: "We couldn't have scripted a better outcome. There is not a seat in Scotland where we are not relevant and compelling."

Socialists' delight

Scottish Socialist Party convener, Tommy Sheridan MSP, rejoiced in climbing above the Lib Dems.

"I don't need a bit of paper to make my speech because the fire of socialism burns in my heart."

Tommy Sheridan
Tommy Sheridan: "Four-party system dead"
"This is another stunning result for the SSP, Scotland's newest, fastest- growing and most radical party.

"The four-party system is now dead. The Scottish Socialist Party is the new team on the block."

Stuart Ritchie, Liberal Democrat candidate, said: "I think the turnout at this by-election delivers a damning blow to all those critics of the Scottish Parliament."

Lib Dem MSP George Lyon declared: "It's quite clear that the protest vote went with the Scottish Socialist Party and the SNP."

'We will listen'

Speaking before the declaration, Health Minister, Susan Deacon, stressed: "It is a by-election and I think it's very important to remember that.

"The voters are intelligent, the electorate are sophisticated. They know they are in a by-election.

"They can express an opinion at a moment in time as distinct from choosing a government.

"Of course we will be listening to the views expressed here tonight but it's very important to put it in context."

The full result:

William Clifton Botcherby, Scottish Independent "The Radio Vet" - 186

Gavin Corbett, Scottish Green Party - 460

Kevin James Dillon, Independent, Anti-Cloning - 15

Robert Graham, Pro-Life Alliance - 111

Jim Mather, Scottish National Party - 9,236

Alistair David McConnachie, UK Independence Party - 113

Rita Miller, Scottish Labour Party - 7,054

Stuart David Ritchie, Scottish Liberal Democrats - 800

John Scott, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party - 12,580

James Scott Stewart, Scottish Socialist Party - 1,345

Spoiled papers - 58

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See also:

16 Mar 00 | Scotland
Tory farmer's triumph
17 Mar 00 | Scotland
Ayr by-election - picture gallery
15 Mar 00 | Scotland
Ayr-time on the internet
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