The writ being moved

We’ve been expecting this by-election for over three years now. Really, it’s been on the cards since 5.50pm on 1 October 2020, when Margaret Ferrier took to Twitter and confirmed that she had breached Covid-19 rules.

Despite being promptly turfed out of the SNP, despite a police investigation, despite pressure from colleagues to do stand, the MP held on.

There was a while there where it looked like she might able to cling to her post until the next general election, but backed a 30 day suspension from the Commons in May, triggering a recall petition.

That came to an end on August 1, when South Lanarkshire confirmed that 11,896 people in her Rutherglen and Hamilton West had signed a petition to remove her from office.

But even then voters had to wait until parliament returned from it’s lengthy summer recess before the writ could be moved.

Finally, on Friday morning, after two months, the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West will have an MP again.

The Herald:

The candidate selection

Neither Labour nor the SNP had a straightforward candidate selection.

Michael Shanks, who lives in the constituency, saw off Glasgow doctor Greg Irwin, Aberdeen councillor Deena Tissera, and South Lanarkshire councillor Maureen Devlin, to be named as Labour’s pick in the seat.

But that came after claims of a Labour HQ stitch-up when the panel selecting candidates ruled out some of the local favourites. The local Constituency Labour Parties made a formal complaint about the process, writing to Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, claiming that members were concerned about the "integrity" of the selection.

Still, that didn’t stop Mr Sarwar from accusing the SNP of being a “dysfunctional” party when it emerged that Humza Yousaf had rejected a series of locals put forward for selection.

The First Minister told the Times, he was taking his time to “make sure we’ve got an excellent candidate in place.”

The Herald: Michael Shanks and Labour MSP Paul O'Kane

The never-rans

There are 14 candidates running in the by-election, a Scottish record. For a while there it looked liked there could be more. Alex Salmond’s Alba hummed and hawed about a tilt for weeks. So too did by-election favourite Count Binface.

George Galloway also ruled himself out, despite spending the months following Margaret Ferrier’s admission touting for cash for a by-election campaign. He managed to raise £12,239 over 45 days in late 2020 thanks to the generosity of 422 supporters.

He said the money raised was used as a “fighting fund” for his now defunct All For Unity party at the last Scottish Parliament election.

The Herald:

The splits

Michael Shanks’s campaign has been boosted by a number of high profile visitors. SIr Keir Starmer has been up twice. Rachel Reeves, Angela Rayner, Wes Streeting, and a fair chunk of the Parliamentary Labour Party have also made journeys to the South Lanarkshire seat to chap doors for their man.

There’s not been complete harmony between the candidate and his comrades. Mr Shanks and Scottish Labour take a different lines to their Westminster counterparts on tuition fees, and gender reform legislation.

Brexit is also a bit of sore one for the party. Mr Shanks quit the party on the day of the 2019 general election in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Europe. The candidates wants to see the UK back in the EU, the party leader does not.

The most awkward split is over the two-child cap, and the so called “rape clause” - the exemption for “non-consensual conception.”

After Sir Keir said he’d keep the policy in place, Mr Sarwar insisted Scottish Labour would “continue to oppose” the cap and would “press any incoming UK Labour government to move as fast as they can within our fiscal rules to remove this heinous policy.”

The Herald: Anas Sarwar, Keir Starmer and Michael Shanks

The zero hour contracts

Nobody can accuse Humza Yousaf of hiding away from the by-election. The First Minister has been here most weeks. So too has many of his cabinet and senior party colleagues, including Stephen Flynn, Mhairi Black and Keith Brown. No Nicola Sturgeon though. And questions over the SNP Holyrood group too. Although many of them had asked for time away from Parliament to come and canvass for Katy Loudon, according to reports they weren’t showing up.

Awkwardly the party was also caught paying for leafleters.

The Scottish Sun reported one “distrbutor” told a resident: “I don’t support the SNP - I’m just getting paid to hand this s***e out. It’s a zero-hours contract as well.”

The Herald: Humza Yousaf joins SNP candidate Katy Loudon (centre) and suporters in Rutherglen