IT’S the night of reckoning for candidates at the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.

Long before the ballot boxes begin to arrive for the count it’s become clear that the SNP have lost heavily, though no-one could have predicted that they’d garner less than half of Labour’s tally. 

The auditorium where the count is taking place soon begins to resemble the crowds at a Christmas market. Among them are a small knot of supporters of the Independence for Scotland party. 

They finished in ninth place with only 207 votes, but are probably representative of much wider resentment across the entire Yes movement from people who feel betrayed at how the SNP have effectively buried Scottish independence for the foreseeable future. 

“Our sitting MP, Margaret Ferrier was removed on a petition in which only 14% had called for it,” I was told by one activist. “Those of us who supported her – and there were many – were never asked our opinions by the SNP. Instead, we had to watch as they tried to destroy her, despite the many years of work and sacrifice she’d made for the party. It was ruthless and quite horrifying to watch.

“If you want to understand why the SNP did so badly here on a low turnout then you should start with this. I know many people who were so disgusted at what the party did to her that they simply downed tools. 

“These were activists who had campaigned for years. They understand this area much more than Katy Loudon, who is not well liked here and has scant knowledge of these streets.”

She’ll have been further sickened by Humza Yousaf continuing to castigate Ms Ferrier as a way of deflecting from his latest political failure.

Can’t help pew
MY peregrinations in Rutherglen inspecting the democratic process are rudely interrupted at the United Reform Church in the town’s douce Stonelaw district.

This is a handsome building and for a journalist looking for some colour to add some dash to the proceedings, there’s always the possibility of a kenspeckle bible quotation carrying special resonance for the day’s momentous events. 

UK electoral law is very specific about what can and can’t be written on election day and so I leave my smartphone and notebook outside. Out of politeness, I introduce myself to one of the clerks and get as far as “I’m a journalist …” before being told my presence is not welcome and that I should leave immediately. 

Well, I’ve been thrown out of far less salubrious places than Rutherglen’s United Reformed church on polling day. 

Yet, it was a curiously uplifting engagement. 

The integrity and purity of the democratic process, even at this level, is guarded jealously and occasionally belligerently by everyday people. 

And there’s something very good about that.

Royal welcome
Next, it’s to South Lanarkshire’s splendid council offices, a magnificent modernist effort opened by Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother, in 1964.

The Herald:

There, I meet Cleland Sneddon, chief executive of South Lanarkshire Council and tonight’s returning officer for the count. 

I feel moved to confess my earlier transgression at the church and his chief of comms says they could have sorted it. 

But I commend the voting clerk to them both for his actions as a sentinel for local democracy.

Mr Sneddon can be pleased with his night’s work. 

He’d predicted a result by just after 1am and talked of ensuring that the integrity of the process was far more important than getting it all done early. Both were achieved effortlessly. 

It wasn’t always like this in these parts. 

An apocryphal tale is told of the legendary and much-missed local politician Tom McCabe who was the first-ever chief executive of South Lanarkshire. 

It seems that in the local race between North and South Lanarkshire to be first to declare on national election nights, all was fair in love and war.

And that the traffic lights around Hamilton town centre would be specially “synchronised” to ensure the speediest possible delivery of the precious votes.

Shirt of Record
UPSTAIRS, in the press room, I’m delighted to see my esteemed old chums Tait of the Scottish Sun and Hutcheon, below,  of the Daily Record. 

The Herald:

The Sun man shows me a meme he’s created of the late-ish Count Dracula. He sends this to those asking him where the count is. 

Mr Hutcheon, meanwhile, is looking resplendent for the occasion in a fetching lilac suit and shirt combo. 

Yet this vestiary arrangement has been forced upon Mr Hutcheon as he’d spilled coffee all over his first-choice white shirt. 

Luckily, Tom Little, another old colleague of the Diary’s and now head of communications at South Lanarkshire Council, is on hand to provide a replacement. 

I tell Mr Hutcheon that this is a fortuitous happenstance as he looks more fetching in lilac.