May 6 2011 By Alastair McNeill
TOM McCabe, who has been MSP for Hamilton since the inception of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, last night lost his seat in the SNP tide which swept across Lanarkshire.
The shock result saw Mr McCabe, a former Labour finance minister, lose to the SNP's Christina McKelvie, a regional list MSP since 2007, by a majority of 2213.
In 2007, Ms McKelvie trailed Mr McCabe in the constituency by 3652 votes.
However, boundary changes and controversy over plans for a waste incinerator near Stonehouse, added spice to an electoral contest that slipped away from Mr McCabe.
A delighted Ms McKelvie thanked the people of the Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse constituency for placing their trust in her, adding: "I will endeavour to do my best. It is a privilege to be able to represent Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse and be their constituency MSP."
Mr McCabe described the result as a setback and pointed out that Labour had to listen to the voters and learn lessons. And he promised the party would fight hard in the constituency in future and win back lost ground.
He said: "I offer my sincere congratulations to Christina McKelvie. Politics can sometimes be a tough and cruel business. However, Christina is entitled to her victory and I wish her well over the next five years. I would also like to express my very sincere thanks to the people of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse."
Mr McCabe believed Labour had run a good campaign in the constituency.
He commented: "We got a good reaction on the ground. I honestly believe we ran a very professional campaign. However, politics is fickle. We were overrun and got swept away. That's not to say we didn't work hard."
Ms McKelvie, who got into Holyrood in 2007 on the Central Scotland list, also paid tribute to her supporters, saying the victory was not hers but her team's, who had backed her "100 per cent, 24 hours per day".
Commenting on her comfortable 2213 majority over Labour, Ms McKelvie said: "I think when you get a vote like that it does come as a surprise. However, we worked hard and had a pretty high expectation, and we reached that. It's a wonderful result.
"There were indications that it was going to be good. We carried out a very good canvas on election day and things held solidly."
Conservative candidate Margaret Mitchell, who polled 2547 votes compared to 2949 in 2007, congratulated Ms McKelvie on a "tremendous victory". She added: "This is the SNP's night. My commiserations to Tom McCabe. He has given a very graceful speech. I would like to thank the voters of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse. My vote has held up well."
Mr McCabe said it was too early for him to think about the direction of his own political future. However, he said he looked forward to spending more time with his family, especially his young daughter and improving his golf handicap.
The Liberal Democrat candidate Ewan Hoyle polled 616 votes.