Stephen Flynn has encouraged SNP activists to come campaign in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, amid reports that the party's MSPs are staying away. 

There are now just ten days to go until voters in the South Lanarkshire constituency head to the polls.

Mr Flynn and First Minister Humza Yousaf will be in Cambuslang with candidate Katy Loudon today.

Both men have been on the doorstep in the South Lanarkshire constituency a number of times in recent weeks.  However, some of their colleagues are seemingly less enthusiastic. 

READ MORE: SNP MSPs not campaigning in Rutherglen and Hamilton West

The party's Holyrood parliamentarians are failing to turn up for canvassing sessions, despite being excused from business.

In a leaked message from an SNP MSP WhatsApp group, obtained by the Sunday Times, senior whip Rona Mackay warned colleagues to make the “crucial by-election” their “top priority.”

“Folks, as you know I’m slipping two groups every parliamentary day to go to Rutherglen,” she wrote.

“On Wednesday, there were two MSPs there, myself and a minister. I understand three members were there yesterday. Please be clear you are only being slipped for the by-election . . . We’re less than two weeks away from this crucial by-election. Please make it your top priority.”

The by-election takes place on October 5 and postal votes have already started dropping through letterboxes.

For some time now, there have been reports of a lack of enthusiasm from local SNP activists to take part in the campaign following the ousting of Margaret Ferrier after she was suspended from the Commons for Covid rule breaches.

Last week, it emerged that the SNP had resorted to paying people to deliver its leaflets.

The Herald also reported in July that activists had complained of “embarrassment” at being asked to promote the party on the doorstep given its financial problems, including a police probe, and lack of progress on independence.

One councillor admitted they could not “in good conscience” ask people to vote for the SNP at the present time.

READ MORE: Labour win in Rutherglen will put SNP and Tories 'on notice' 

Though Labour’s vote has fallen slightly in recent polling, candidate Michael Shanks is the favourite to take the seat, which was won by the former SNP in 2019 with a majority of 5,230.

The Sunday Times reports that UK leader Sir Keir Starmer is expected to return to the constituency campaign trail this coming week.

Dame Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said the leak was “embarrassing,”

She said it demonstrated that the “SNP group is less than enthusiastic about their increasingly negative campaign.”

“After 16 years of failure in government it’s no wonder they want to hide from voters,” she said. “While the SNP bicker among themselves, Scottish Labour is working around the clock to offer people in Rutherglen and Hamilton West the fresh start it needs.”

Scottish Conservative Chairman, Craig Hoy said it was a "damning indictment of the SNP’s record that they can’t even get their own MSPs to go and defend it on the doors – never mind supporters and activists."

“People in Rutherglen and Hamilton West want an MP who is 100% focused on the issues that really matter to them, like the global cost-of-living crisis, reducing NHS waiting times and protecting local services.

“But this SNP Government is now so out-of-touch that its MSPs have given up even trying to speak to ordinary voters."

READ MORE: Mhairi Black urges young people to vote in Rutherglen

Speaking ahead of today's campaign stop, Mr Flynn said: “SNP members from all over Scotland have travelled to join Katy’s positive campaign and as we head into the last full week of campaigning, I would encourage them to keep coming.

"Let’s speak to as many people in Rutherglen and Hamilton West as possible, listen to their priorities and share Katy’s positive vision.

“On 5 October, vote SNP in Rutherglen and Hamilton West for a local champion who will work for real cost of living support and a fairer, wealthier, greener Scotland.”

The Herald: Humza Yousaf and Katy Loudon

Mr Yousaf said: “Katy Loudon has already proven she will be an MP of real action - having written to the UK Chancellor demanding support for mortgage holders, called for the reinstatement of the £400 energy rebate to help households with energy bills, and promised to introduce a Bill to abolish the two-child cap if elected.

“The Tory government isn’t doing enough to support people and Labour have made it clear they are happy with the Tory status quo.

"In the face of Westminster’s cost of living crisis, people in Rutherglen and Hamilton West deserve an SNP MP who will stand up for them and demand the support they need.

"Households in Scotland are being hammered by Brexit - a policy we didn’t vote for imposed by a Westminster government we didn’t vote for.

"With all the main Westminster parties having turned their backs on Scotland and embraced Brexit, the SNP is the only pro-EU party and the only party standing up for Scotland.”

READ MORE: Husband of SNP MSP mounts bid to unseat Alyn Smith as party's candidate in Stirling

The SNP could soon also face another Westminster by-election in the neighbouring seat, after the SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron said she would quit if she did not get selected to the party’s candidate.

Her constituency’s Westminster campaign committee has backed Grant Costello to contest her seat at the next general election.

Dr Cameron has secured the backing of 50 local members, which now means it will go to a vote. The ballot opens on Thursday and closes on October 12.

The MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow claimed that she had been “ostracised” by the Westminster group for because of her support for Patrick Grady’s sexual harassment victim.

A number of other SNP MPs face selection battles in the next few weeks.

Alison Thewliss is going head-to-head with her David Linden in Glasgow East.

Recommended by If Thewliss fails there, she is contesting the nomination for Glasgow North, taking on Amjid Bashir and Rhiannon Spear.

In the new Argyll, Bute and South Lochaber seat, councillor Math Campbell-Sturgess is challenging MP Brendan O'Hara.

In Stirling and Strathallan, Alyn Smith faces a battle with Ahsan Khan, the husband of the sitting MSP, Evelyn Tweed.

Meanwhile, later this week, SNP MSPs will vote on whether or not to suspend Fergus Ewing for backing a Tory motion of no confidence in Green minister Lorna Slater.

They should have taken the decision last week, but postponed it as the former minister was recovering from Covid.

It's thought he could have the whip removed for a week.