John Swinney became the longest serving Scottish Parliamentarian as he bolstered his majority in Perthshire North.
Swinney, who was re-elected for the sixth time in his political career, described the result as emphatic as he won the seat he has held since its formation in 2011.
A smaller than usual number of spectators, due to pandemic restrictions, watched on as Perthshire North was announced at around 2.20pm at Bell’s Sports Centre.
Not everything shrunk this election however, as for the first time, more than 40,000 voters in Perthshire North cast their ballots.
The eager crowd knew already that over 6,000 more votes had been cast in Thursday’s election than ever before, taking turnout to a record 69.9%.
Those additional votes were gobbled up almost exclusively by the two frontrunners in the head-to-head race many expected.
Swinney’s closest rival at the polls has always been Conservative Murdo Fraser, who has contested Perthshire North in all three previous elections.
The long-serving Tory picked up 2,617 more votes than he did in 2016, but that wouldn’t have been enough to close Swinney’s 3,336 majority.
That would have been before Mr Swinney added another 3,334 votes this time around, taking his new majority to 4,053.
Swinney ‘delighted’ with result
Mr Swinney said: “I’m absolutely delighted with the election result.
“It’s wonderful to be re-elected and to serve the people of this community.
“To do so with an increased majority and an increased gap between us and the Conservatives is a fantastic result, given the intensity of the contest we have just gone through.
“It looks like the SNP will emerge as the largest party.”
Labour dropped by around 300 votes to 2,324 and the Lib Dems made a slight gain of 97 votes, however both parties will have had their eyes on the number of list votes they could accrue.
The Scottish Family Party were unable to influence the outcome, garnering 334 votes. Some 141 votes were spoilt.
Regional votes from Perthshire North could back up traditionally larger support for the parties in Fife and Clackmannanshire and help elect MSPs to Mid Scotland and Fife.
Perthshire North had been a target for the Conservatives, with only six other seats in Scotland requiring a smaller swing.
Candidate Murdo Fraser is top of the Tory list for the regional vote, so is still almost certain to retain his seat at Holyrood.
The slenderest majority the Tories would need to topple, however, is in neighbouring Perthshire South and Kinross-shire.
The region’s ballot boxes will be opened and counted on Saturday morning in a nail-biting grandstand finale to the 2021 election which could be of great significance.
With Roseanna Cunningham stepping down, newcomer Jim Fairlie will be hoping to retain the seat, which includes two thirds of the city of Perth.
However, he faces stiff competition from Conservative Liz Smith. A regional MSP prior to the 2021 election, Ms Smith is hoping to overturn the SNP’s 1,422 vote majority.