Sir Keir Starmer has hailed a “seismic result” for Labour after his party overwhelmingly won Scotland’s first recall by-election.
Labour candidate Michael Shanks won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat after securing more than twice the votes of his SNP rival Katy Loudon.
The result will pile more pressure on SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf – who has seen his party’s fortunes decline in the polls in the wake of the ongoing police investigation in SNP finances.
The by-election was called after a recall petition against Margaret Ferrier, who had won the seat for the SNP in 2019 with a majority of 5,230.
Ms Ferrier however had the SNP whip removed after breaching Covid rules in 2020, and after remaining as an independent MP was suspended from the House of Commons, resulting in the recall petition.
Thursday’s by-election saw the SNP’s majority overturned by Labour after Mr Shanks won 17,845 votes, well ahead of the 8,399 votes returned for Ms Loudon.
After securing more than 58% of the votes cast Mr Shanks now has a majority of 9,446.
Sir Keir hailed that as a “seismic result” adding that voters in the constituency had “sent a clear message” that it is “time for change”, and that people “believe that this changed Labour Party can deliver it”.
He added: “I have always said that winning back the trust of people in Scotland is essential.
“Tonight’s victory is the culmination of three and a half years of hard work and humility on that journey.
“I am grateful to everyone who has put their faith in us today – we will work every day to repay it.
“Voters across Scotland and across Britain want a government determined to deliver for working people, with a proper plan to rebuild our country.
“They want to move on from two SNP and Tory governments that offer only more division, more chaos and more infighting.”
The Scottish Conservatives came in third place, with Thomas Kerr polling 1,192 ahead of Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate Gloria Adebo and Scottish Green Party candidate Cameron Eadie who secured 895 and 601 votes respectively.
A total of 30,531 votes were cast in the by-election, with turnout standing at 37.2%, well below the 66.5% turnout in the last general election.
Mr Yousaf, who made frequent visits to the constituency during the election campaign, stressed his party was facing “some very difficult circumstances”.
But he said the buck would stop from him if his party failed to hold on to the seat, and afterwards he conceded it had been a “disappointing night” for the SNP.
He posted on X that “circumstances of this by-election were always very difficult for us” with Mr Yousaf adding the “collapse in the Tory vote” had gone straight to Labour, saying this was a “significant factory” in the result.
But the SNP leader added: “We lost this seat in 2017, and like 2019 we can win this seat back.
“We will reflect on what we have to do to regain the trust of the people of Rutherglen & Hamilton West.”
Prior to the by-election Labour had just one MP in Scotland, with the party now hoping the result in Rutherglen and Hamilton West will be a springboard for the next general election, expected to be held sometime next year.
Mr Shanks said afterwards it was the “honour of his life” to be elected as MP for the area.
Speaking at the count in Hamilton he said: “The message from tonight is a resoundingly clear one – we have had more than enough of managed decline, more than enough of division, more than enough of distracted, chaotic government.”
Mr Shanks added the result showed that “there is no part of this country where Labour can’t win”.
He declared: “Labour can kick the Tories out of Downing Street next year and deliver the change people want and this country so badly needs. Tonight is one part of that journey.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar meanwhile said: “This is an absolutely extraordinary result, a seismic result and I think this will send shockwaves through the SNP and a historic moment in Scottish politics.
“I think Scottish politics has fundamentally changed tonight. The people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West have demonstrated that Scotland are sick of two failing governments. They want the incompetence, chaos and the division to come to an end.”
He rejected the idea that the win was fuelled by turmoil within the SNP, adding the result was “humiliating” for Mr Yousaf’s party.
However he said the significant swing to his party was “even beyond our expectations”.
Katrine Bussey – PA