Margaret Ferrier’s removal triggers electoral test for Labour in Scotland
Ferrier tested positive for Covid-19 in September 2020 after speaking in Britain’s House of Commons
A Scottish lawmaker has been stripped of her seat in Britain’s parliament for breaking Covid rules, triggering a by-election that will indicate whether the opposition Labour party is recovering support from Scotland’s dominant pro-independence party.
Margaret Ferrier is a former lawmaker for the Scottish National Party (SNP) who represented Rutherglen and Hamilton West. She was one of a wave of SNP politicians who swept Labour from its one-time Scottish stronghold in 2015.
The by-election will show whether Labour is now able to win again in Scotland, where it needs to recapture some of its former dominance if it is to return to government in a UK-wide election expected next year.
Ferrier tested positive for Covid-19 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.
She was suspended from her party and had since been sitting as an independent. She apologised for what she called “an error in judgment”, but resisted calls to resign.
In March parliament’s standards committee recommended a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons, setting in motion the process of a recall petition.
On Tuesday (1), South Lanarkshire said the petition to remove Ferrier had been successful as nearly 15 per cent of the electorate had signed it, although no date for the by-election has been set.
“The people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West have demanded change. This area deserves a fresh start, and only Labour can deliver it,” Scottish Labour said.
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.
The SNP won in Rutherglen and Hamilton West with a 5,230 majority in 2019.
But now Labour is projected to win the most seats in Scotland for the first time since 2010, a poll found in June, amid turmoil in the SNP around the resignation of long-time leader Nicola Sturgeon and a police probe into its finances.
“Only the SNP are offering real change through independence,” the SNP’s new candidate for the seat, Katy Loudon, said.
Labour’s record in recent by-elections is mixed. In three such votes in England last month, it took one seat off the ruling Conservatives but failed to gain a second, while the Liberal Democrats took the third.