Scotland’s First Minister has said he remains “hopeful” of an SNP win in a key by-election next week.
Humza Yousaf said voters in Rutherglen and Hamilton West face a “stark choice” between Sir Keir Starmer’s “man in Scotland” or the SNP candidate, who he said would only take her orders from her constituents.
The by-election will take place on Thursday October 5 after the seat was vacated by former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier following a successful recall petition after her conviction for breaching Covid restrictions in 2020.
It is expected to be an important battleground ahead of the UK general election, which is expected next year, with the SNP’s Katy Loudon taking on Labour’s Michael Shanks.
“But the second reason I go in hopeful is because I know the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West have now a very stark choice.
“They can either vote for Keir Starmer’s man here in Scotland – and Labour have taken this vote for granted, they’ve already decided they’ve won this by-election – or they have a choice of the alternative, of Katy Loudon, who will only take her orders from the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West and stand up for the issues that matter to them, predominantly battling against that Westminster cost-of-living crisis that has caused so much misery to so many people in this constituency.”
Mr Yousaf conceded that the context of the by-election has been “challenging” but said there is strong support for the SNP.
He said: “It could well come down to on the day making sure we get that vote out, motivate them, that’s what we’ll be concentrating on for the next few days.”
Ms Loudon said the SNP is fighting a good campaign and the by-election is an opportunity for people to send a strong message to Westminster.
She said: “By-elections have the potential to cause a shockwave in politics, we know that from Winnie Ewing in this area 50 years ago.
“This is a chance for people in this area to send a message and that message is we reject Westminster, we reject Westminster being broken or it not working for this constituency, we reject Brexit, we reject years of horrible welfare policies, years of austerity, and it’s a message for Labour as well.
“People have the chance to do that and it’s to send a message to Keir Starmer – we’re not going to put up with your lurch to the right because your lurch to the right is to support your vote down south, it’s not about doing anything for the voters of Rutherglen and Hamilton west here in this area.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie said: “These attacks from Humza Yousaf are out of touch, dishonest and desperate.”
She added: “While Scottish Labour is out speaking to voters in this area about the issues that matter – tackling the cost-of-living crisis, making work pay, and tackling the epidemic of one in seven Scots on waiting lists, Katy Loudon is shamefully siding with her party bosses on income tax rises and congestion charges.
“Only Scottish Labour’s Michael Shanks will stand up for the people of the area and deliver the fresh start Rutherglen and Hamilton West deserves.”
Scottish Conservatives candidate Councillor Thomas Kerr said: “People of Rutherglen and Hamilton West deserve an MP who is wholly focused on the issues that really matter to them.
“Katy Loudon has already admitted she will put her party before the real priorities of people in this area. In the case of the SNP, that means the pursuit of independence at all costs.
“While Scottish Labour’s candidate has U-turned so many times during the campaign, voters won’t know if he’s “Keir Starmer’s man” or really Humza Yousaf’s.
“Only the Scottish Conservatives are focused on the real priorities of the people in this constituency, and capable of standing up to the SNP’s obsession with independence.”