Rennie: It would be a “joy” to win back Kennedy’s seat

Willie Rennie has revealed the Liberal Democrats will target the late Charles Kennedy’s former seat in the general election.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said it would be a “joy” to take back Ross, Skye and Lochaber from the SNP.

The constituency is fifth on the party’s list of winnable seats, behind East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh West, North East Fife and Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

Mr Kennedy, who died in June 2015, led his party from August 1999 to January 2006 and served as an MP for 32 years before being ousted by Ian Blackford two years ago.

In an interview with the Press and Journal, Mr Rennie said: “There is always a bit of a lump in the throat when you drive into the constituency.

“I did a visit to Skye not so long ago. People were still remembering Charles and what he had done over a long period and how much they missed him.

“People still remember when he came and knocked on their door and how he made them feel, the fact he followed up the case and got things fixed.

“Everyone has a personal story – that’s one of the big reasons why it would be a joy to win it back for Charles.”

The North East Fife MSP also predicted the SNP would lose MPs on June 8 while his party would increase its number.

“We are definitely going to up, the SNP will go down. The exact scale of it I’m not sure but the direction of travel is clear,” he said.

“People are fed up with independence dominating every bit of politics and want to send a message back on that.”

Responding, Mr Blackford, who has a 5,124 majority, said he would be standing on his record over the past two years.

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Paul Monaghan, who won in 2015 with a majority of 3,844, said he would continue to represent his constituents diligently if re-elected, but insisted he was “not in any way complacent”.

After Ross, Skye and Lochaber, six and seven on the party’s list are Gordon and Argyll and Bute, currently represented by Alex Salmond and Brendan O’Hara respectively.

The deadline for applications is tomorrow, after which shortlists – all female in the case of the five most winnable seats – will be created.

Mr Rennie said the party was aiming to confirm its candidates by the following Saturday.