Wednesday, December 6, 2023

UK opposition party hails big win in Scottish by-election

UK opposition party hails big win in Scottish by-election
October 6, 2023 Web Desk

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's main opposition on Friday welcomed a big by-election win in Scotland as a sign its electoral fortunes were changing head of a UK general election.

The result takes the Labour party's tally of seats in Scotland from one to two, after it was all but wiped out by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) at the 2015 election. The party needs to win back some of the 40 seats it lost in Scotland in 2015 if it is to have a chance of ousting Rishi Sunak's Conservative government at a UK election likely to be held next year.

Labour leader Keir Starmer hailed the result as "seismic", just days before the party gathers in the northwestern English city of Liverpool for its annual conference. He said the result "sent a clear message" that this "changed Labour party" could deliver the change people wanted.

The by-election in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat, southeast of Glasgow, came after SNP lawmaker Margaret Ferrier was pushed out over a breach of Covid-19 regulations. Labour candidate Michael Shanks won 17,845 votes, well ahead of the 8,399 polled by his SNP rival.

The result follows a drop in popularity in Scotland of the pro-independence SNP following the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon as party leader and Scotland's first minister. Sturgeon was the figurehead of the independence movement, overseeing a surge in support particularly after Brexit, in which Scotland opposed leaving the EU, and during the Covid pandemic.

But in February, she unexpectedly announced her resignation and was later arrested with her husband over claims of mismanagement of SNP finances. Starmer's Labour is currently on track to return to power at a general election, according to opinion polls.

The party has enjoyed double-digit poll leads for months as Sunak's government has grappled with stubbornly high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis. Recent surveys, however, have showed the gap narrowing following a raft of populist policies announced by Sunak in recent weeks.

Labour was once the dominant force in Scottish politics but has seen its influence decline at a national level since the end of Gordon Brown's government in 2010. In the devolved Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, the SNP has long been the biggest party and currently governs in a coalition with the pro-independence Greens.