Humza Yousaf will make a direct appeal to young families as he heads back to Rutherglen and Hamilton West for the second time in seven days.

With just three weeks until the by-election and a resurgent Scottish Labour the favourite to take the seat, the SNP is ramping up its campaign to hold on to the constituency.

Ahead of the visit to a nursery in Burnside, the First Minister said his party’s candidate, Katy Loudon, “should be the first choice for families.”

He said the Scottish Government’s expansion of paid-for childcare and the Scottish Child Payment stood in stark contrast to the “regressive UK Government policies like the two-child cap and abhorrent rape clause are pushing thousands of families in Scotland further into poverty.”

Mr Yousaf said Labour was “choosing to support these cruel Tory policies while many families struggle to get by during a cost-of-living crisis of Westminster’s making.”

However, the First Minister's visit could be overshadowed by the growing row over allegations of a Holyrood cover-up over claims he allegedly misled parliament.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf denies Holyrood 'cover-up' amid calls for ethics probe

His visit comes just 24 hours after SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn and his deputy Mhairi Black were in the South Lanarkshire constituency.

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The SNP’s candidate Margaret Ferrier won the seat in 2019, but her Covid rule-breaking in 2020 saw her suspended from the party and ultimately ousted in Scotland’s first recall petition.

Her majority of 5,230 needs a swing of just 5% to Labour for Sir Keir Starmer’s party to double the number of Scottish Labour MPs in the Commons.

They are throwing everything at the vote. UK Labour has even offered to cover the travel and accommodation expenses for any party staffer willing to use a day off to campaign for candidate Michael Shanks.

An internal email, obtained by the Daily Record, said: "Staff who have time off or are on leave in the days ahead of and including the 5th October, the Labour Party would strongly encourage you to support the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.

"This is a crucial by-election that can show Labour is once again challenging in Scotland and we need as many volunteers as possible.

"The party will cover all travel to Rutherglen, accommodation, and travel either back to London or on to Liverpool for Labour Party Conference if you are attending.”

Last weekend, The Herald on Sunday revealed that Labour had already outspent the SNP on the recall petition campaign. Sir Keir Starmer’s party spent over £8,000 trying to oust Margaret Ferrier, eight times as much as the SNP.

READ MORE: Labour spend eight times as much as SNP on recall petition

With the race so close tensions are running high.

In Holyrood on Thursday, Education Secretary Jenny Gilrtuth urged her SNP colleagues to be “a little more circumspect and thoughtful” in their use of social media after a row over the summer saw schoolchildren dragged into an attack on Labour’s candidate.

Last month, former children’s minister Clare Haughey shared a post from the pro-independence Talking-Up Scotland blog which suggested exam results in the modern studies department at Park Mains High, where Mr Shanks teaches, had slipped in recent years and were now poorer than the national average.

Ms Haughey — who employs the SNP candidate Katy Loudon — reposted a tweet about the blog using the startled eyes emoji.

The comment sparked a flurry of criticism with a number of users on the site, including many teachers, attacking the politician.

Scottish Labour deputy Jackie Baillie accused Ms Haughey of "gutter politics" and weaponising school pupils to "score grubby points."

The tweet was deleted and a party spokesperson apologised on Ms Haughey’s behalf.

In Parliament, Labour’s Paul O’Kane asked Ms Gilrurth about levels of attainment in Modern Studies in the most recent SQA exam results in Renfrewshire.

“I congratulate the ambition, hard work and resilience of the young people in Renfrewshire who achieved a strong set of results in modern studies,” the minister said.

“In 2023 pass rates for modern studies at National 5 in Renfrewshire were above the national average, and the same as the national average at Higher.

“The achievements of these young people should be celebrated.”

Mr O’Kane said was “glad to hear that answer from the Cabinet Secretary.”

“She knows how important modern studies is in teaching good citizenship and respectful debate. Young people and their teachers across Renfrewshire work extremely hard to achieve their results in the subject.

“So what would the Cabinet Secretary say to a colleague encouraging the denigration of young people's exam results in order to attack a political opponent and will she join me in condemning the actions of her colleagues from local SNP branches, council groups and even this chamber who seem to believe that the life chances of pupils at Park Mains High, an excellent school in my region, are fair game in desperate political attacks?”

“I think we could all learn to be a little more circumspect and thoughtful in our use of social media and in particular, how and what adults say and do impacts on our children and young people,” Ms Gilruth said.

“I understand the tweet the member has alluded to has since been deleted and the member has apologised at that time, but I'm intrigued by the care that Mr O'Kane appears to attach to one tweet from an SNP backbencher.

“The Scottish Labour Party has of course attached no such care to the 1,620 children in Rutherglen and Hamilton West who have been affected by the two child benefit cap.

“It is the Tories' heinous rape clause which is harming children and their outcomes the length and breadth of this country and instead of coming to the chamber today with a backbone, Mr O'Kane comes to bemoan a tweet on social media.

READ MORE: SNP accused of 'gutter politics' in Rutherglen as children weaponised

Meanwhile, Ms Black was asked if she had any advice for Ms Loudon, should she win the seat.

“Having met Katy, I have no doubt that she’s up to the task and my advice would be keep your chin up,” she said.

The Herald:

“You know exactly why you’re there, you know the people you’re fighting for, and you know how desperate the people that you’re fighting for are.

“So just keep going with it, as long as you can.”

Asked if there has been any change in her perception of the culture at Westminster since she spoke out, Ms Black said: “No. Simple as that.

“Any changes that Parliament makes, they always make the smallest of steps.

“Quite often it’s one step forward, two steps back, but I’m not seeing change at a rate that normal people want or that society needs.”