THE SNP have gained a council seat in the Highlands, winning the Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh by-election

Alex MacInnes won in Highland Council ward 5 with 1318 first preference votes – a seven point increase on the SNP’s share of the vote compared to the local elections in 2017.

LibDem councillor Kate Stephen, who was one of four representatives of the ward, stood down in September due to academic research commitments, prompting the by-election.

MacInnes held off a challenge from Tory candidate Gavin Berkenheger, winning 33.1% share of the vote to the latter's 26%. In third place was Richard Green, an independent, with 15.6%.

The Highland Council is led by a coalition of Independents, LibDems and Labour.

READ MORE: Why the SNP are the real oppostition to Tory Brexit chaos

MacInnes, from Kishorn, in the west of the ward, said: “I’m absolutely delighted and honoured that the people of Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh have put their trust in me to serve as their local councillor.

“Living and working in the ward, I know the challenging issues which we face in this part of the Highlands – what changes need to be made and what problems need fixed.

“The SNP will always stand up for the Highlands and I hope to be a strong voice, speaking up for the people of this ward in the council.

“My thanks to everyone who worked hard to get me elected and I look forward to getting down to work.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those to send her congratulations.

The SNP leader tweeted: "Yay! Many congratulations to new @theSNP councillor for Wester Ross, Strathpeffer & Lochalsh, the brilliant @alexmacinnessnp - what a great addition to @HighlandCouncil"

MacInnes campaigned on issues including better local raids, building new homes for families and investment in schools and nurseries.

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP said: “Many congratulations to Alex MacInnes for this fantastic victory.

“People in the Highlands clearly trust the SNP to put their communities first – to fight for their interests and to stand up for Scotland.

“Despite the Tories throwing the kitchen sink at this campaign, they’ve been rejected by people in the Highlands because of Brexit chaos and their damaging policies.”

The full first preference votes by party were: 

SNP: 1,318 (33.1%)
Labour: 174 (4.4%)
Tories: 1,037 (26.0%)
LibDems: 320 (8.0%)
Greens: 359 (9.0%)
UKIP: 16 (0.4%)
Libertarian: 8 (0.2%)
Independent: 622 (15.6%)
Independent: 131 (3.3%)