The National:

Winner in 2016: Kate Forbes (SNP)

THIS geographically vast constituency was created for the 2011 Holyrood election, and doesn’t have a clear-cut predecessor – the northern part was previously in the old seat of Ross, Skye and Inverness West, which was the equivalent of the Westminster seat that Charles Kennedy had held for the LibDems since 1983.

The southern part had been within Inverness East, Nairn & Lochaber, which was once the Westminster fiefdom of Liberal and LibDem veteran Russell Johnston.

In spite of the Liberal tradition in those two seats, though, they were very different in character, because Kennedy’s victories were generally effortless, while Johnston often had to fight harder to stay in office – most notably in 1992 when his constituency threw up one of the most extraordinary results in UK electoral history, with a virtual four-way tie between the LibDems, Labour, the SNP and the Conservatives, and only 1700 votes separating Johnston in first place from the Tories in fourth.

Once Johnston retired and took his personal vote with him, the LibDems faded away for a time, but the spoils were shared between two parties – Labour took the Westminster seat in 1997, and the SNP’s Fergus Ewing broke through in the Holyrood seat in the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999. He only barely fended off a stiff Labour challenge in 1999 and 2003, but by 2007 his majority was suddenly a much healthier 5471 votes – and that was over the LibDems rather than Labour.

Meanwhile, the Holyrood seat of Ross, Skye & Inverness West had remained in LibDem hands, even without any direct involvement from Charles Kennedy as a candidate. The SNP weren’t really in contention in 1999 and 2003, with the biggest threat to the LibDems coming from Pete Wishart’s former Runrig colleague Donnie Munro, who almost won the seat for Labour in 1999. The first indication that the SNP could be vaguely competitive came in 2007 when Dave Thompson took a respectable second place on 32%.

It was Thompson himself who took the new seat of Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch in 2011, and he did it by building on the strong SNP track record in one part of the constituency and improving on the less impressive SNP support in the other part. Within a few years, though, that distinction had more or less gone after Charles Kennedy spectacularly lost his Westminster seat to the SNP’s Ian Blackford in 2015.

The SNP now enjoy the additional advantage of having the immensely popular Finance Secretary Kate Forbes as their standard bearer in the Holyrood seat, and with a 9000-vote majority over the LibDems to defend, she should be a shoo-in for re-election in May.