Tavish Hamilton Scott (b. 6 May 1966) is a farmer and the Scottish Liberal Democrat Member of the Scottish Parliament for Shetland, a post he has held since 1999. He was also previously a Shetland Islands Councillor and led the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 2008 until 2011..
Tavish was the first of two children born to John Scott and Wendy (neé Ronald). He was born in Inverness, educated at the Anderson High School in Lerwick before going on to do a BA (Hons) in Business Studies at Napier College in Edinburgh. After graduating, he worked as a parliamentary assistant to MP Jim Wallace, then as a Press Officer for the Scottish Liberal Democrats before eventually returning to Shetland where he became a farmer and a Shetland Islands Councillor.
Shetland Islands Council
At the 1994 Shetland Islands Council election in May, Tavish staged an upset by unseating James 'Slim Jim' Irvine, who had been a councillor in Shetland for 24 years at that point. Standing as a Liberal Democrat in the Lerwick Harbour and Bressay ward, he received 52.3% of the vote (221 votes) against Slim Jim's 197.
Member of the Scottish Parliament
Tavish only served Lerwick Harbour and Bressay for one-term as in May of the 1999 Shetland Islands Council election he was elected to become Shetland's first Member of the Scottish Parliament.
At the 1999 Scottish Parliament election, there were four candidates for the seat, with the Liberal Democrats, Labour, Scottish National Party and the Conservative party fielding candidates. Tavish received 54.5% of the public vote, with his closest contender Labour's Jonathan Wills who received 22.7% of the vote, meaning that Tavish became the first ever representative for Shetland as a distinct entity. Previously, Shetland had been bound to Orkney.
The mixed-proportional voting system used in the Scottish Parliament uses was specifically designed to ensure that majority government would be avoided. As expected, the 1999 election delivered no outright winner, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats entered into coalition with Scottish Labour. In forming their new executives all three Labour leaders (Donald Dewer, Henry McLeish, Jack McConnell) appointed Tavish's former boss and now Member of the Scottish Parliament for Orkney Jim Wallace as Deputy Leader. In the McLeish government (2000-01), Tavish held the role of Deputy Minister for Parliament from 2000 until he resigned in March 2001 after refusing to support the executive in a vote on a tie-up scheme for fishing.
At the 2003 Scottish Parliament election, Tavish was returned with a smaller proportion of the vote than in 1999 (46.1%, less 8.3 percentage points), but still maintained a 26.1% lead over his nearest rival, Willie Ross of the Scottish National Party. That election was contested between the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party, Conservatives, Labour and Scottish Socialists.
In 2003, he returned to the Scottish Executive under the second McConnell government as the Deputy Minister for Finance and Public Services. In this role, he was involved in reforming the voting system used by Local Government to Single Transferrable Vote, a proportional system. After party leader Nicol Stephen was elected as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Tavish was appointed as a Cabinet Minister for Transport. In that role, he was pivotal in helping to establish the Air Discount Scheme which gives residents of Scottish Islands a 40% (now 50% as of 2016) discount on the price of flying to and from the Scottish mainland.
Tavish was re-elected at the 2007 Scottish Parliament election by an increased majority. His result - 66.7% - gave him the largest margin over the nearest rival of any MSP in Scotland (50.1%). In 2008, Scottish Liberal Democrat party leader Nicol Stephen resigned his role and Tavish announced his intention to stand as party leader. At his announcement on 7 July 2008 at Lerwick Harbour, he was joined by the Up Helly-Aa squad. On 26 August 2008, he was elected as the party leader, receiving 59% of the votes cast by party members.
The 2007 election brought a minority Scottish National party government in Scotland, and as such the Liberal Democrats were no longer in the Scottish executive.
The 2011 Scottish Parliament election results were "disastrous" according to Tavish, with the party losing 12 MSPs, from 17 to 5. Tavish was successfully re-elected, albeit with a reduced majority. There were two primary factors that contributed to Tavish's reduced majority. Nationally the Liberal Democrats were haemorrhaging voters due to entering coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster. Locally, Tavish faced a challenge in the anti-windfarm candidate Billy Fox. In 2011, the Shetland community was firmly split on whether the Shetland Islands Council should authorise the construction of a vast windfarm in central Shetland. Tavish adopted a neutral stance on the issue, while Billy Fox was a strong opponent. Billy received an impressive 30% of the vote, but Tavish was still returned as the victor.
On the back of a "disastrous" set of results, Tavish resigned the party leadership, which was later won by Willie Rennie. Tavish would take on the role of Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesman for business and the economy under Rennie.
In the run up to the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, Tavish and his Orkney counterpart Liam McArthur put forward a motion to the Liberal Democrat conference to recognise the Islands having a separate right to self-determination. Having been a career-long critic of Scottish Independence, Tavish campaigned for a No vote in the independence referendum. A majority of Shetlanders - 64% - agreed with Tavish and voted against Scottish Independence.
At the 2015 UK General Election, Orkney and Shetland Result, the Scottish National Party were expected to make considerable gains, but very few predicted the scale of success that the party had (winning 56 of 59 Scottish seats). There was significant interest in how they would perform in Shetland at the 2016 election. The same candidate who was just 817 votes away from unseating MP Alistair Carmichael in 2015, Danus Skene, was challenging Tavish. In an equally surprising result, Tavish stormed to victory securing his highest ever vote percentage (67.4%).