EAST Lothian’s new MSP Paul McLennan has paid tribute to his predecessor after the SNP won the seat for the first time.

Labour had dominated the Scottish Parliament elections in East Lothian since the constituency was created in 1999.

Iain Gray has been the county’s MSP for more than a decade but announced he was stepping down from the role earlier this year.

Labour had hoped that former MP for East Lothian Martin Whitfield could follow in his footsteps and ensure the party continued its grip on the seat.

However, Mr McLennan won by more than 1,000 votes from the Labour candidate, with the results announced at Meadowmill, near Tranent, earlier this afternoon (Friday).

The newly elected MSP said: “I want to give special thanks to Iain.

“He has been MSP for a long time, mostly here in East Lothian, and Iain’s presence will be missed in East Lothian.

“I want to thank my fellow candidates – Craig (Hoy), Euan (Davidson) and Martin (Whitfield).

“It has been a very different campaign and probably the first time we have seen each other since the virtual hustings.”

Mr Gray and Mr Whitfield were among the first to congratulate Mr McLennan, who is also a councillor for the Dunbar and East Linton ward on East Lothian Council, on the victory.

The result was the first seat to change hands today (Friday).

Mr McLennan secured 17,968 votes (39.1 per cent), with Mr Whitfield in second spot on 16,789 (36.6 per cent).

Haddington and Lammermuir ward councillor Craig Hoy (Conservatives) finished in third with 9,470 votes (20.6 per cent), with the Liberal Democrats’ Euan Davidson in fourth with 1,556 votes (3.4 per cent).

The result gives Mr McLennan a majority of 1,179 – the biggest majority in the county since 2007.

He described the victory as “probably the most humbling thing in my life” and said: “I’ve lived in East Lothian all my life.

“It is the most fantastic county, it is the best county, and I am incredibly humbled to represent it.

“My pledge is to work with all groups in East Lothian and to work with all political parties in East Lothian because that is incredibly important.”

Mr Whitfield served as the county’s MP from 2017 to 2019 but could not secure the Holyrood seat.

He spoke to the Courier shortly after the results were announced and said: "I'm very disappointed.

"It was very close and at the end of the day it has been a very, very strange election.

"All of the little evidence and things that we look for were unavailable this time and we were unable to knock on lots and lots of doors and speak to people, which has always been a very positive campaign strategy for Labour."

The teacher at Dirleton Primary School echoed the comments of Mr McLennan in paying tribute to Mr Gray.

He described him as a "phenomenal MSP" and was saddened he was "unable to carry the baton forward".

He added: "East Lothian is a stunningly beautiful place.

"The people here are massively important and I know that Paul will serve them very well and remember it is the constituents here that elected him."

Mr Hoy also paid tribute to Mr Gray, who became the county's MSP in 2007.

He said: “I hope that those who follow will rise to the level of service set by Iain.”

The Conservative share of the vote was down just over three per cent on the results from 2016, when Rachael Hamilton also finished third.

Mr Hoy added: “We fought a very positive campaign, a good campaign, very well run, but we could not get round the simple observation that it was a Labour-held seat and we were in third position.”

Mr Davidson felt the Liberal Democrats had been “squeezed” between the top parties.

However, he was hopeful the party would enjoy more success through the regional vote, with the results yet to be announced.

A total of 45,931 votes were cast, which is a 69.1 per cent turnout.

A total of 138 votes were rejected, with five voting for more than one candidate and the remainder unmarked or void for uncertainty.