Splits emerged in the SNP last night over the party's independence strategy following the disastrous by-election defeat in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

While the SNP had expected to lose, the scale of the defeat was far worse than anticipated.

A 20.4 percentage point swing to Labour saw Michael Shanks secure 17,845 votes, some 9,446 more than Katy Loudon.

The new MP took more than 58% of the total votes cast.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Change is coming the SNP's way and it better get ready

Mr Yousaf admitted that Thursday had been a “very difficult” night for his party.

While he insisted that the “buck does absolutely stop” with him, he said there were also “some very difficult contextual factors” around the by-election.

“Margaret Ferrier’s reckless actions, of course, came up time and time again," he told broadcasters outside Dundee's V&A.

“And the police investigation, of course, has engulfed the party over the last few months and, again, came up on a number of doorsteps.

“There's a number of difficult issues around this by-election that have made it a very difficult night for us indeed.”

The First Minister said his voters just simply “did not come out” at the by-election.

“I've got to make sure I'm inspiring them, inspiring the public, to come out.

“But there's no doubt that any objective media commentator would say that there were very, very difficult contextual factors in this by-election for the SNP.”

The defeat has led to renewed scrutiny of his plan to start independence talks after the next election if his party wins the most seats.

The proposal is due to be debated when SNP members gather in Aberdeen next weekend for their annual conference. 

There are some in the Westminster group who believe the cost of living crisis rather than the constitution should be the focus of the general election campaign.

Others want independence to be front and centre, and see the First Minister effectively turn the next general election into a referendum. 

Stewart McDonald, the SNP MP for Glasgow South warned against over “over-reading” the by-election result. However, he said the party should not “dismiss or diminish” the loss.

“We've been skelped, and we need to think deeply about why,” he wrote on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

“Yes, the circumstances of the contest and ongoing investigation are obvious factors, but these numbers - turnout and result - point to something more fundamental.

“Let us resist the temptation to rush to a core vote strategy, and instead plot an offer rooted in the future that can bring Scotland behind it. No other route to independence exists.”

Pete Wishart, the SNP's longest-serving MP, who believes the next election should be fought as a de-facto referendum, tweeted: "Support for independence is way ahead of support for the party and it is a gap we must close.

"We can only do that by getting Indy support motivated with a genuine belief that a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence."

READ MORE: Keir Starmer:' Labour believes very strongly in the union'

Meanwhile, former first minister Alex Salmond said Mr Yousaf had “days to save his first ministership.”

While the Alba leader said his successor had “inherited an appalling legacy” from Nicola Sturgeon, he claimed the First Minister was “making things much worse” and had “fallen on his face in spectacular fashion”.

In another development which could weaken the First Minister’s authority, it emerged yesterday that the party gave in to Mhairi Black after she reportedly threatened to quit the SNP when her staff member’s bid to be an MP was knocked back.

According to Holyrood magazine, the ultimatum worked with Robert Innes allowed to put his name forward to stand in the contest for the SNP depute Westminster leader's Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat.

He was initially rejected after failing vetting and losing a subsequent appeal.

He is a councillor in Renfrewshire and is the partner of Scottish Government Children's Minister Natalie Don.

The magazine’s sources say the MP told HQ she would quit the party publicly on October 4 – one day before voting opened in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election – unless Mr Innes was approved as a potential candidate.

One person told the magazine that Ms Black had effectively "blackmailed the party".

Another said bosses had given in for a "quiet life".

Local party members are said to be furious.

Ms Black announced her intention to stand down from Westminster earlier this year, describing it as a "toxic" and "poisonous" environment.

Neither she nor Mr Innes responded to The Herald’s requests for comment.

READ MORE: Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election: Sarwar hails seismic win

While the SNP licked their wounds Labour activists gathered in Burnside at the party’s campaign HQ for a victory rally with Sir Keir Starmer, Anas Sarwar and Mr Shanks.

The leader of the opposition said the win was a "big step in the right direction" in his bid to be the next prime minister. 

"This was a must-win for us," he told journalists. "And the size of the win, I think vindicates the positive campaign that we ran here.

“But we accept this humbly. This is a step on the journey. We've made the case for change here in Rutherglen and we need to make the case for change across the whole of Scotland and earn all of the votes.

“As I have said, many, many times, the route to a Labour election win at the next general election runs through Scotland because if I'm privileged to serve I want to be the prime minister for the whole of the United Kingdom, not just of the United Kingdom.”

The Herald:

The campaign was boosted by a huge number of activists flocking to the constituency to canvass for Mr Shanks, including 144 on the final weekend. 

Sir Keir said that reflected the “real energy” in the party at the moment. 

“When you see a political party that is galvanising lots of people to come out and campaign for it, that's a political party that's on its way up.”

He denied that the money thrown into the campaign was why Labour triumphed. 

“It was the positive case here that won it. People wanted to come out and vote Labour and that hasn't happened for a very long time. For the first time they've been able to look at a changed Labour Party that can win the general election and bring about change. And that is hugely, hugely important.” 

He said the result was a vindication of the work that he and Anas Sarwar have done together, since taking over from Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard. 

Asked what the vote meant for the prospect of an independence referendum under a Labour government, Sir Keir said he was “not going to be sidetracked by the arguments of others.” 

He said: “We are the party that believes very strongly in the union, not just for the very many historical reasons that everybody supports the union and or should support the union. 

“But also because if we look at the challenges of the future, it is obvious to me that we will face those challenges, whether it's climate, whether it's the economy, whether it's conflict, we will face them better as four nations together.” 


“I think the independence referendum is the last thing that anybody should be focused on,” he added. “We just had a campaign over a number of months, knocking on I don't know how many thousand doors, how many thousand conversations, and the number one issue is the cost of living crisis, followed very swiftly by the state of public services, particularly health.


“They are the key priorities. And when I set out the five missions of an incoming Labour government, if we're privileged enough to serve, they are the absolute focus of what we hope to achieve in government, and we're not going to get sidetracked by the arguments of others. 


“The SNP has got its priorities completely wrong. And I think that's been reflected in the vote yesterday.”