LABOUR has accused the SNP of trying to delay a possible by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

The accusation came as Sir Keir Starmer was campaigning in the South Lanarkshire constituency on Friday morning with Anas Sarwar and candidate Michael Shanks. 

However, Margaret Ferrier’s position as the incumbent MP is safe for at least ten more days, after a vote to suspend her from the Commons was unexpectedly pulled by the UK Government.

Reports suggest it could not go ahead as there were not enough MPs in Parliament. 

Erskine May, the guide to parliamentary procedure, states the House can only be quorate if 35 MPs are able to vote in a division.

There was speculation from Labour that some Tory MPs were preparing to vote against the ban because they fear it would set a precedent if Boris Johnson is ultimately sanctioned for misleading Parliament. 

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Speaking to journalists, Sir Keir said: “It’s going to happen, Parliament I’m sure will vote to uphold the sanction, and I’ve no doubt there will be a recall petition, and I’ve no doubt there will be a by-election.”

“This constituency has been let down for too long,” he added.

“We need to get on with this by-election and nobody should be dithering and delaying, whether it’s the Tories or the SNP, they have no right to deprive this constituency of the effective representation that it deserves.”

Unless Ms Ferrier resigns, voters in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West are still months away from a by-election.

Westminster is now in recess, with MPs not returning until June 5.

If they do back the lengthy punishment for Ms Ferrier when they are back in the Commons, it will spark Scotland's first recall petition.

The process involves the Speaker writing to the Petition’s Officer in South Lanarkshire, who then takes ten working days to get the petition set up. 

If, over the course of six weeks, 10 per cent of her constituents visit the special signing stations and add their names to the petition, Ms Ferrier will lose her job.

It will then be up to the SNP to move the writ in the Commons to trigger a by-election.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he believed the party could “deliberately” delay the vote.

“We’re making a direct demand of the SNP that when this motion comes – and it’s got to come as soon as possible – that the SNP vote for this motion, and when the recall is successful, as we think the recall will be given the anger and frustration, that they don’t dither and delay in terms of when they call this by-election, because ultimately they’re the ones who have to move the writ.”

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During the visit, Sir Keir denied he was taking a win for granted.

“I'm humble,” he told LBC. “I know that we need to respect every single voter, we need to earn every single vote. And that's what we'll be doing, going out there making a positive case with an excellent candidate.”


First Minister Humza Yousaf disagreed. He accused Labour of “arrogance” and “hubris.”

“We're never complacent, never ever complacent,” he told LBC during a visit to the University of Glasgow.

“Whether we've won seven elections or eight elections in a row, however, many elections we win, we should never, ever take the people of Scotland for granted. And we don't, that's why we work to earn and re-earn their trust. 

“So I've been to Rutherglen, I'll be back out on the doors, and I'll be there regularly because we should be going into that by-election hopeful, we should be going into that by-election, confident, but absolutely not complacent. 

“The Labour Party have already decided before a by-election is even called that they've won it. And that's complacency.”

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Ms Ferrier was found guilty of culpable and reckless conduct at Glasgow Sheriff Court last August after she admitted travelling on a train in September 2020 despite knowing she had Covid. 

The MP also spoke in the House of Commons and visited a number of locations in Glasgow, including a mass in Mungo’s church and a bar in Prestwick, Ayrshire, while waiting on the results of a Covid test.

After the positive result came through, she lied to colleagues and said she had to go home to visit a sick relative. 

She was ordered to carry out 270 hours of community service after pleading guilty to wilfully exposing people “to the risk of infection, illness and death.”