Lib Dems drop election legal challenge for North East Fife

Willie Rennie comforts Elizabeth Riches after the result. Picture: George McLuskie
Willie Rennie comforts Elizabeth Riches after the result. Picture: George McLuskie

The Liberal Democrats have said they will not challenge the dramatic election result, which saw the SNP retake the seat by just two votes.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie confirmed via a statement on social media that they would not look to contest the issue of the party being denied a fourth recount.

Stephen Gethins

Stephen Gethins

Earlier this week the party said it was still considering legal advice, but the latest statement merely attacks the SNP.

Lib Dem candidate Elizabeth Riches had initially been ahead of the SNP’s Stephen Gethins by three votes, but a recount reduced that majority to just one.

A second and third recount both yielded idential results of Mr Gethins being two ahead, prompting returning officer Steve Grimmond to declare in favour of the SNP.

Mr Rennie said: “Many people have asked us to challenge the North East Fife General Election result in court.

“The Liberal Democrats have given this careful Consideration and, despite legal advice that we would have grounds. to challenge the result, it has been decided not to go to court.

“We have decided there is insufficient evidence to justify a lengthy and expensive legal challenge. It would be expensive for us, expensive to the taxpayer and an inconvenience to the voters, so we could not sanction that without sufficient evidence to warrant it.

“The message to local voters in North East Fife is crystal clear. The next election will be the closest contest in the whole of the United Kingdom. A couple of votes will decide whether we have a Liberal Democrat MP or a SNP MP.

“The SNP election campaign talked up the challenge from the Conservatives even though they started in a poor third place.

“This was designed to split the non-SNP vote so the SNP could scrape home. No-one will believe the SNP if they make such claims in future.

“Many people who voted Conservative and Labour this time have already told us that they will be voting for us next time.

“Elizabeth Riches was a great Liberal Democrat candidate.

“She secured many extra votes because of her outstanding reputation over many years in the East Neuk and in Fife.

“Despite the enormous investment she made in the campaign and agony of losing by the smallest of margins Elizabeth has maintained her dignity and composure throughout. It is that exemplary behaviour over the last week as much as during the election campaign that proves we were 100% correct to choose Elizabeth Riches as our candidate. She would have been an outstanding MP.”

EArlier this week, Mr Gethins said: “I am now focused on getting on with the job representing everyone in North East Fife regardless of how they voted.

“I would like to express my thanks to the staff at the count and to Elizabeth Riches and the other candidates for a hard fought election.”