Labour’s Alex Rowley has won the Cowdenbeath by-election to become the Scottish Parliament’s newest MSP.
The Fife Council leader held the Fife seat for Labour with 56% of the vote, beating Scottish National Party candidate Natalie McGarry into second place with 28% of the vote.
There was a significant 11.25% swing from the SNP to Labour from the Scottish Parliament general election in 2011.
Although Ukip beat the Liberal Democrats, both parties lost their deposits in an election which saw a low turnout of 34.78%.
The seat has been vacant since the death of Labour MSP Helen Eadie in November, just days after it emerged she was being treated for cancer.
Mr Rowley, who won the seat with 11,192 votes, said: “This is about a bigger vision for Scotland, a bigger vision than simply independence.
“It’s about full employment for every young person to get the opportunities that they deserve from their lifetime.
“It’s about elderly people living in Fife with dignity, and making sure when they need services those services are available.
“I will spend every day working hard to ensure that we do that.
“Finally, the message has got to go out in the Scottish Parliament right now that we can mitigate the bedroom tax.
“We can give people jobs, we can give people opportunities, we can do that with a strong, devolved Scottish Parliament working within the UK.”
The new MSP Mr Rowley added that it was a by-election “that none of us wanted”.
He said: “Helen Eadie was a true champion for this constituency and for Fife. I have been struck by how fondly she is remembered by the people of Fife and I hope that I can be as an effective a voice for ordinary Fifers as she was.”
Ms McGarry, who came second with 5,704 votes, said: “In eight months’ time there is going to be a referendum, and people in this constituency and across Scotland will have a vote.
“I am confident that there will be yes majority in September.
“I heard on the doorsteps from a lot of traditional Labour voters who said: ‘Listen, Natalie, I’m not going to vote for you, but I am actually thinking about voting yes in the referendum.’
“So Alex Rowley may be the victor tonight, but I believe the whole of Scotland will celebrate a yes victory in September.”
The SNP’s business convener Derek Mackay MSP insisted the result indicated the party’s underlying strength in Scotland.
“The SNP fought a strong campaign with an excellent candidate in Natalie McGarry, and we made the issues of the by-election the issues that matter to the people - the Council Tax freeze, free school meals and extending childcare,” he said.
“The share of the vote we achieved was the same as our performance in 2007 - when we won a national election across Scotland for the very first time - and therefore is an extremely creditable performance.
“This was the only seat in Fife we didn’t win at the high water mark of 2011, it has remained a Labour seat in the by-election, and we wish Alex Rowley well in representing the people of Cowdenbeath constituency.”
Fife councillor Dave Dempsey, who came third for the Conservatives with 1,893 votes, said: “We are going in the right direction.
“I want to thank my team. You could not buy the effort, dedication and enthusiasm that I have had at my disposal over the last several weeks. We’re getting there.”
A Conservative spokesman said it was a “good result” as they were the only party to increase their share of the vote.
Denise Baykal, who came fourth for the UK Independence Party (Ukip) with 610 votes, said: “This shows that Ukip is here, it’s here to stay and we are increasing our vote all the time.
“Hopefully this will mirror our success in the European elections.”
Jade Holden, in fifth place for the Liberal Democrats with 425 votes, said: “I am really proud of the campaign we have run. It has been really positive, and we have got our message out there about lower taxes and support for jobs.”
Stuart Graham stood for the Victims Final Right Party, which was launched by the family of Colin Marr, whose death is being reinvestigated after initially being dismissed as suicide.
He pledged to give half his salary to charity if he was elected, but came sixth with 187 votes.
He said: “I have to say to every single party in here, you are a bloody disgrace. In this country right now we have no right to challenge death.
“In England there are 30,000 inquests a year but in Scotland we have 50. We have probable suicide with no inquest.”