The UK’s main opposition Labour Party has won a by-election in Scotland, defeating the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) in a significant victory. The result indicates Labour’s recovery in Scotland ahead of a national election expected next year.
Labour candidate wins with a large margin
Labour’s 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 20.4%. 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.
Shanks, a 25-year-old former teacher, said he was “overwhelmed” by the result and thanked the voters for their trust. He said he would be a “strong voice” for the constituency and fight for better public services, jobs and living standards.
Labour leader hails ‘seismic’ result
Labour leader Keir Starmer described the result as a “seismic” one and a clear message for change. He said it showed that voters were tired of the “two tired, failing and incompetent governments” of the Conservatives in Westminster and the SNP in Edinburgh.
“I have always said that winning back the trust of people in Scotland is essential,” Starmer said in a statement. “Tonight’s victory is the culmination of three and a half years of hard work in years of hard work.”
Starmer added that the result was a boost for his party ahead of its annual conference next week, where he will set out his vision for a “fairer and more prosperous” Britain.
SNP leader admits ‘disappointing night’
SNP leader Humza Yousaf said it was a “disappointing night” for his party, which has been in power in Scotland since 2007. He attributed the loss partly to the “difficult circumstances” of Ferrier’s removal, who had tested positive for Covid-19 in September 2020 but travelled by train from London to Scotland instead of isolating.
Yousaf said the SNP would reflect on what it had to do to regain the trust of the voters and vowed to win back the seat at the next general election. He also reiterated his party’s commitment to holding another referendum on Scottish independence, which he said was “the only way to secure Scotland’s future”.
Implications for UK politics
The by-election result was seen as a major indicator of the state of UK politics, as it came on the eve of Labour’s conference and amid speculation about when Sunak will call a general election. The Conservatives are currently leading in most opinion polls, but Labour has been narrowing the gap in recent weeks.
The result also suggested that Labour was making a comeback in Scotland, where it had once dominated but lost ground to the SNP over the last decade. Labour won only one of the 59 Scottish seats at the 2019 general election, compared to 48 for the SNP.
John Curtice, Britain’s most prominent pollster, said it was a “remarkable result” for Labour, which could potentially win more seats in Scotland if it replicated the swing across the country. He said this would increase Labour’s chances of forming a government or at least denying the Conservatives a majority.