SNP candidate Jim Fairlie put breathing space between his party and the Conservatives as he built on his party’s smallest majority.
Farmer Fairlie was elected to the Scottish Parliament for the Perthshire South and Kinross-shire constituency on Saturday with a majority of 1,948.
The seat was held since its creation by SNP stalwart Roseanna Cunningham.
But the veteran independence campaigner decided to stand down when parliament was dissolved.
Mr Fairlie was tasked with defending the seat with the slenderest majority in Scotland, 1,422 votes ahead of the Tories.
The turnout was a staggering 44,217 – up more than 8,000 votes on 2016 – and he capitalised, bolstering his majority.
Conservative candidate Liz Smith, a list MSP last term and a former Perth and Kinross councillor, added almost 4,500 votes to her 2016 tally.
However, it was Mr Fairlie who kept his nose in front and sealed victory with 20,126 votes.
He says he felt more pressure defending Ms Cunningham’s seat than he did fighting off a Tory push during the campaign.
‘People were motivated’
“I’m over the moon, delighted, buzzing, elated, emotional,” he said. “Just fantastic.
“Roseanna is a titan of the independence movement, so to have lost it, that was far more pressure.
“People were motivated. I knew on Thursday we weren’t getting: ‘I’ll vote later’.
“We were getting: ‘I’m on my way’. From a democratic point of view, it’s been a fantastic result across the country.
“I think it’s quite clear. Boris Johnson and the Westminster Tories have absolutely no right to tell us anything about what the democratic process should be.”
Turnout in Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, which contains two thirds of the city of Perth, was at an all-time high of 69.8 per cent, mirroring the high engagement neighbouring Perthshire North recorded the previous day.
In what was destined to be a two-horse race, Labour and the Liberal Democrats both saw their vote share fall by three figures.
Ballot boxes opened at Bell’s Sports Centre at 9am and the announcement was confirmed at 1.50pm.
Afterwards, peach ballots were separated and tallied up for Mid Scotland and Fife regional MSPs.
Liz Smith joins Friday runner-up Murdo Fraser at the top of the Tory list, meaning neither are likely to drop out of the Scottish Parliament.
List results on Friday showed the SNP and Conservatives were still storming out in front, with the Greens on a good footing, securing third place.