Humza Yousaf says he is “hopeful” of an SNP win in a key by-election race next week.
The First Minister said voters in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency face a “stark choice” between Labour leader Keir Starmer’s “man in Scotland” Michael Shanks or the SNP’s Katy Loudon who he claimed would take orders from her constituents.
The by-election, triggered by the ousting of disgraced former MP Margaret Ferrier, will take place on Thursday.
The vote comes after a successful recall petition following Ferrier’s conviction for breaching Covid restrictions in 2020.
The seat is now an important battleground for all parties ahead of a UK general election, expected next year.
Speaking on a visit to Tempo Community Space in Rutherglen on Saturday, Yousaf said: “I go in hopeful over these last few days of the by-election for a couple of reasons: one, because we have a phenomenally good candidate in Katy Loudon, who is working hard, talking to people every hour of every day as much as she possibly can.
“But the second reason I go in hopeful is because I know the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West have now a very stark choice.
“They can either vote for Keir Starmer’s man here in Scotland – and Labour have taken this vote for granted, they’ve already decided they’ve won this by-election – or they have a choice of the alternative, of Katy Loudon, who will only take her orders from the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West and stand up for the issues that matter to them, predominantly battling against that Westminster cost-of-living crisis that has caused so much misery to so many people in this constituency.”
Yousaf conceded that the context of the by-election has been “challenging” but said there is strong support for the SNP.
He said: “It could well come down to on the day making sure we get that vote out, motivate them, that’s what we’ll be concentrating on for the next few days.”
Yousaf and Ms Loudon joined a children’s dance class with Busta Beat during their visit to the community centre on Saturday.
Ms Loudon said the SNP is fighting a good campaign and the by-election is an opportunity for people to send a strong message to Westminster.
She said: “By-elections have the potential to cause a shockwave in politics, we know that from Winnie Ewing in this area 50 years ago.
“This is a chance for people in this area to send a message and that message is we reject Westminster, we reject Westminster being broken or it not working for this constituency, we reject Brexit, we reject years of horrible welfare policies, years of austerity, and it’s a message for Labour as well.
“People have the chance to do that and it’s to send a message to Keir Starmer – we’re not going to put up with your lurch to the right because your lurch to the right is to support your vote down south, it’s not about doing anything for the voters of Rutherglen and Hamilton west here in this area.”
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