Margaret Ferrier haunted the SNP’s by-election campaign launch in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, with Humza Yousaf and candidate Katy Loudon both pushed on their relationship with the disgraced MP.

The First Minister insisted the, vote likely to be held in October, would not be about his former colleague.

“We were a party to the recall petition. I was out here just a few days ago urging people to sign up to the recall petition. So we welcome the by-election. We've been calling for day one for Margaret Ferrier to step down.”

READ MORE: The three reasons why Margaret Ferrier's constituents removed her from office

Asked if he had any sympathy for the ousted MP, Mr Yousaf replied: “Margaret Ferrier is responsible for her actions. I think we can all agree that they were incredibly reckless but this is not about my Margaret Ferrier. That has been done.

“This is now about the very stark choice that faces voters in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

“They either have an SNP MP who stands up for them or a Labour MP that does Keir Starmer's bidding and backs the two-child cap.”

Ms Loudon told journalists at the campaign launch that she had not spoken to Ms Ferrier since news of her Covid rule breaches first emerged in September 2020.

Scotland's first recall petition was signed by 11,896 voters, well above the threshold of 8,113 needed to sack the MP who last year pleaded guilty to wilfully exposing her constituents “to the risk of infection, illness and death”

In a statement to Sky News following the petition's result, Ms Ferrier said she would not be standing in the by-election and that it had been a “difficult and taxing process” and she did not want to “prolong it further”.

READ MORE: SNP's Katy Loudon insists cost of living is voter priority not police probe


During the campaign launch, Mr Yousaf was also asked about the changes behind the scenes at SNP HQ. This is the first election the party has had in decades without Peter Murrell at the helm.


The former chief executive - who is married to Nicola Sturgeon - resigned during the leadership contest in a row over misleading comments about party member numbers.

He has since been arrested, and questioned by detectives as part of the police’s probe into the SNP’s finances and funding. He was released without charge, pending further investigation.

“Peter was a proven election winner,” the First Minister said. “I've said as much in the past, but he was one individual and we have a whole party machinery, but frankly our biggest asset is the near 75,000 members that we do have.“

He said SNP activists would be “flooding the streets” during the campaign.

“We'll have people knocking every single door, multiple times, in Rutherglen and Hamilton West,” he promised.

Mr Yousaf was asked if a vote for the SNP in this by-election was a vote of support for independence, rather than a vote for an independence referendum.

Mr Yousaf said: “It’s a vote for independence, but that's the General Election, that was the line for the General Election.

“When we have a General Election and we have that manifesto, if conference agrees, line one, page one, will be that a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence.

“This by-election, very simply, I think in simple terms, yes it’s about independence, because independence is the only surefire way to scrap cruel Tory policies.

"But equally it will be a stark choice for people in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, you vote for an SNP MP that stands up for the country, stands up for your constituency, or your vote for a Labour MP that backs Keir Starmer’s position on the two-child limit and the bedroom tax.”

“Independence will be part of the campaign," Mr Yousaf insisted. "I’m part of the SNP, believe it or not independence is a part of every single campaign that we have.”

READ MORE: Labour demand SNP set earliest date for key by-election - October 5

The SNP has been criticised by some independence supporters over their campaign to get rid of Ms Ferrier. 

Alba's Westminster leader, Neale Hanvey said: “Throughout this whole saga we have witnessed the unsavoury sight of the SNP and the Labour Party ganging up together to oust a thoroughly decent woman - and committed nationalist - who was guilty of one mistake that she will forever regret.

"For this, Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar deserve a plague on both of their houses."