The Rutherglen & Hamilton By-Election is a Big Deal: Here’s Why

Photo by Element5

Lewis Burns (He/Him)

On Thursday, all eyes will be on Rutherglen and Hamilton West. The Glaswegian constituency is the backdrop of a political showdown, observed intensely by those in the British political space. 

After her expulsion from the SNP following her breaching of COVID-19 restrictions, a petition to remove Margeret Farrier as Member of Parliament secured enough votes to unseat the former-MP. This has triggered a by-election which will see the SNP’s Katy Loudon, Labour’s Michael Shanks, The Conservatives’ Thomas Kerr, and the LibDems’ Gloria Adebo fight to secure their place as the Member of Parliament for Rutherglen and Hamilton West. The implications of this by-election however, go far beyond this single constituency. 

In England, Labour’s victory is near-inevitable. Lockdown parties, a perpetual stream of financial scandals and corruption, a cursed mini-budget and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Truss Administration have all collectively torpedoed the Tories’ electoral potential across the UK. Polling data across multiple polling outlets, including Politico, differ on the details but paint a similar image: a straight and narrow red line soaring above a stubbornly shallow blue. With the Sunak Administration’s recent decision to roll-back on climate commitments, many are interpreting Rishi’s policy changes as nothing more than political plays, desperate attempts to shore up votes in the face of a doomed election, no matter the environmental consequence. Assuming no unexpected political shift, Rishi Sunak has already been handed his eviction notice, (Your tenancy will be terminated on January 2025) and Keir Starmer is currently our Prime-Minister in-waiting.

In Scotland, the political scene is almost as tumultuous, but the future is far less certain. The unexpected resignation of former-First Minister and seemingly infallible Scottish political heavyweight Nicola Sturgeon was the first in a series of startling moments in Holyrood. Sturgeon’s resignation triggered an election that exposed deep ideological divisions within the SNP. But once the election was concluded and Humza Yousaf was named First Minister, a police investigation into the party’s alleged misuse of funds and the arrest of Sturgeon and SNP Chief-Executive Peter Murell sent further shock-waves across Scottish politics.

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election essentially serves as the first real test of Yousaf’s leadership and popularity. The results will determine how voters take to a Sturgeon-less SNP, and if the party’s financial turmoil has affected public trust. If so, it could signifify a disruption to the SNP’s standing as the dominant Scottish political party, as well a major blockade to achieving Scottish independence. If the SNP takes this seat however, this could be worrying for Labour, a sign that their anticipated Westminister success is entirely due to Tory chaos, rather than any real enthusiasm for a Starmer-led government.

Either way, the results of this election are sure to say a lot about the current state of Scottish politics, the viability of Scottish independence, and the future of the United Kingdom.