Humza Yousaf quizzed on arrest of SNP treasurer Colin Beattie
In his first by-election since succeeding Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader Humza Yousaf has been handed a humiliating defeat.
In the early hours of Friday morning, the First Minister’s party saw its 5,000-vote majority in Rutherglen and Hamilton West overturned by a resurgent Scottish Labour.
On becoming Labour’s second-only MP north of the border, winner Michael Shanks said the message from Scots was clear: “We’ve had more than enough of managed decline, more than enough of division, more than enough of distracted, chaotic government. It’s time for change.”
Riding high at the 2019 general election, the SNP secured 48 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats. Since then, however, its popularity has plummeted.
Failed independence bids, accusations of severe mismanagement and police probes into its leadership have all led to what Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar deemed a “turning point” in the nation’s politics.
READ MORE: Humiliated SNP suffers huge defeat as Humza Yousaf admits ‘disappointment’
Mr Shanks won 17,845 votes out of the 30,531 valid votes cast while polling was open on Thursday. Just 8,399 declared their support for the SNP’s Katy Louden.
From where things stood after the December election four years ago, Labour’s share increased by 24.1 percent, while the once-dominant SNP’s fell by 16.6 percent – equivalent to a 20.4 percent swing between the two parties.
If a similar “seismic” shift were to be replicated across Scotland, the party currently leading Holyrood could lose 15 seats to Labour.
Although these would mostly be in Glasgow, where the SNP is currently weakest, potential changes of hand also include Na h-Eileanan An Iar in the Outer Hebrides and Edinburgh South.
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At the height of its popularity under Ms Sturgeon, YouGov polling shows 54 percent of Scottish adults would have sided with the SNP if a general election were held the next day – 34 points more than the second-placed Conservatives at the time, in August 2020.
Much has changed since then. On February 15, Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister announced her intention to resign, sparking a bitter leadership battle. Progressive continuity candidate Humza Yousaf was selected to replace her at the end of March.
Shortly after, Ms Sturgeon’s husband and former SNP chief executive was arrested by police and detained for 11 hours as a result of an investigation into the party’s finances. In June, she too was held by police.
Although both were released without charge, the scandal provoked widespread dismay at the perceived corruption at the heart of the SNP.
Rutherglen and Hamilton West’s Margaret Ferrier only made matters worse when her breach of coronavirus restrictions in 2020 saw her resign as an MP, prompting the party’s disastrous by-election this week.
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