Labour secures ‘seismic’ victory in Scottish election
Labour gets 20 per cent swing in big by-election win
Scottish Labour candidate Michael Shanks (L) and Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar arrive at the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election count in the South Lanarkshire Council Headquarters on October 06, 2023 in Hamilton, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LABOUR hailed a “seismic” victory in an election for a UK parliamentary seat in Scotland, beating the Scottish National Party (SNP) in a sign of its recovery in the country before a national election expected next year.
Labour is leading prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Tories in the opinion polls, but will likely need to regain much of the ground lost to the SNP in Scotland over the course of the last decade if it harbours hopes of returning to government after a 13-year absence.
“This is a seismic result. People in Rutherglen and Hamilton West have sent a clear message – it is time for change. And it is clear they believe that this changed Labour Party can deliver it,” Labour leader Keir Starmer said in a statement.
The by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, on the outskirts of Glasgow, was called after lawmaker Margaret Ferrier was stripped of her seat in London’s parliament for breaking Covid-19 rules.
Labour candidate Michael Shanks received 17,845 votes, beating the second-placed SNP candidate Katy Loudon, who got 8,399 votes. There was a swing to Labour from the SNP of 20 per cent.
John Curtice, Britain’s most prominent pollster, said it was a “remarkable result” for the Labour, which comes on the eve of its annual conference next week.
“This is the kind of result that suggests that the Labour Party is potentially capable of winning seats again in Scotland,” he told BBC News.
Ferrier was one of a wave of SNP politicians who swept Labour from its one-time Scottish stronghold in 2015.
She tested positive for Covid in September 2020 after speaking in Britain’s House of Commons. Instead of isolating as was mandatory at the time, she took a train more than 400 miles back to Scotland.
Ferrier was suspended from her party and had since been sitting as an independent before she was removed by a petition of her constituents in August.
SNP leader Humza Yousaf said it was a “disappointing night”, adding that the difficult circumstances of Ferrier’s removal.
“We can win this seat back,” Yousaf said. “However, we will reflect on what we have to do to regain the trust of the people of Rutherglen & Hamilton West.”
Labour lost all but one of its Scottish seats in 2015 to the SNP as it retained support of pro-independence voters in the aftermath of a 2014 referendum where Scots voted to stay part of the UK by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
After Labour retook Rutherglen and Hamilton West with an improved showing in Scotland in 2017, the party again lost all but one Scottish seat in 2019, and the SNP won the seat with a majority of 5,230.
Polls show Labour could draw level with the SNP or even win the most seats in Scotland for the first time since 2010 after the resignation of long-time SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and a police probe into the party’s finances.