PARTIES are making their final push for votes ahead of today’s by-election.

Labour, the Conservatives and the SNP are all fielding candidates for the Airdrie and Shotts seat left by Neil Gray.

They will compete against the Lib Dems' Stephen Arrundale, Reform UK's Martyn Greene, UKIP candidate Donald Mackay, Neil Manson of the Social Democratic Party and Jonathan Stanley of the Scottish Unionist Party.

Despite a resounding success at the latest Holyrood election, the SNP says it is not taking anything for granted, while the Conservatives are appealing to pro-union voters.

Labour, meanwhile, is focussing on local issues such as unemployment and, similar to their Scottish Parliament campaign theme, is appealing to those who are looking for an ‘alternative’ to constitutional wrangling.

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Nicola Sturgeon urged voters to opt for her candidate Anum Qaisar-Javed, adding that not only would her election be a victory for the SNP but for women of colour everywhere.

The First Minister said Ms Qaisar-Javed would be “an exceptional MP” and continued: “Not only would Anum represent a strong voice for Scotland - she would send an incredibly powerful message to all women of colour that anything is possible in politics.”

She said: “The people of Scotland made their voice heard in the Scottish election last week - a vote for Anum will make sure that Westminster are listening to those voices.”

Ms Qaisar-Javed said she would “relish” the chance to be the Airdrie and Shotts MP, and said: "Scotland can do so much better than the current swamp of Tory cronyism that has engulfed Westminster - but that potential can only be realised with independence.”

She said that voting for her would make sure the area’s “democratic will for a second independence referendum is heard loud and clear."

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Labour’s Kenneth Stevenson is hoping to secure the seat for his party once again.

It switched to the SNP in 2015 when Neil Gray was elected, but had been considered a safe Labour seat up until then.

Mr Stevenson, a North Lanarkshire councillor, told The Herald he was passionate about the area as he is a local man, and wanted to help his constituents.

He said: "I’m willing to work hard for the local area because I'm from here. I see people every day, it’s part of my family. It's where my heart is.”

A councillor since 2017, Mr Stevenson said his main focus for Airdrie and Shotts would be on creating jobs and employment opportunities for locals, and explained: “People are worried about good quality jobs, and it comes up time and time again on the door.

“The other thing that comes up, funnily enough, is Anas [Sarwar].”

Mr Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, has been seen by many as having turned the party’s fortunes around in terms of public profile, although this did not translate into votes during last week’s poll.

Mr Stevenson added: “It doesn’t matter if you get a Labour voter, a Tory or an SNP…Even people who are not voting Labour say  ‘we might not vote for you, but we like your man’.”

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The Scottish Conservatives are hoping their candidate Ben Callaghan can take the seat, with a spokesman saying: “This by-election offers voters a chance to send the SNP a message that Scotland’s representatives must be 100% focused on our recovery instead of pushing for another divisive referendum.

“Our candidate Ben Callaghan is local to the area and knows first-hand the devastating effects the pandemic has had on Airdrie and Shotts. He will be fully focused on rebuilding their communities, rather than trying to break them up.”

“By turning out to their polling station, voters in Airdrie and Shotts can ensure their vote will get them a MP who will put their recovery first, over plans for an independence referendum.”

The polls will close tonight at 10pm, with counting to take place overnight as opposed to the following day.

A result is expected to be declared at some point in the early hours of Friday morning, however this can change depending on the volume of votes cast or if any unexpected problems arise during the count.