Date set for by-election to replace Covid rule-breaking MP

Former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier will not be standing for re-election after almost 12,000 people backed recalling her over lockdown rule breaches.

A date has been set for the by-election to replace the sacked Covid rule-breaking MP Margaret Ferrier.

Almost 12,000 people in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency backed unseating the former SNP MP after she breached strict coronavirus rules in 2020 to travel by train from London to Scotland following a positive test for the disease.

It marked the first time the recall petition procedure has been used in Scotland since it was introduced in 2015.

The by-election will be held on October 5.

Ferrier announced she would not stand for re-election as an independent having won the seat twice in 2015 and 2019.

Ferrier announced she would not stand for re-election as an independent having won the seat twice in 2015 and 2019.STV News

The SNP’s chief whip at Westminster was tasked with filing a writ with speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to officially vacate the seat.

He said: “The people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West deserve to have this by-election as soon as possible so they can vote to send a strong MP to Westminster that will truly stand up for them, and against the cruel Tory policies that Labour now support.

“The SNP have a fantastic candidate in Katy Loudon, who has a proven track record in the constituency. The SNP know exactly what we stand for and will fight for every single vote – as we always do.

“By contrast, the pro-Brexit Labour party are taking the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West for granted by arrogantly acting like they have this election in the bag.

“With Sir Keir Starmer having ruled out ever re-joining the EU, and backing Tory policies, including the cruel two-child cap and rape clause, people are asking what is the point of Labour?”

Whoever wins the election may only hold the seat for a few months with a general election looming next year.

It may also be the last time the constituency is occupied by its own MP, with boundary changes set to come into effect in the 2024 vote.

Rutherglen is to become a seat in its own right, also encompassing parts of Uddingston, while Hamilton West will be absorbed into the new Hamilton and Clyde Valley constituency.

How did we get here?

Ferrier travelled from Scotland to Westminster after testing for Covid in September 2020 and went on to speak in the House of Commons while waiting for the results.

Later, after the test confirmed she was positive for the virus, she took the train back to Scotland.

She had the SNP whip removed when the allegations emerged but remained an MP, sitting as an independent.

However, Ferrier lost an appeal against her suspension from the UK Parliament after the Westminster standards watchdog recommended a 30-day suspension from all Commons activity.

She has already been ordered to complete a 270-hour community payback order by a court after admitting culpably and recklessly exposing the public “to the risk of infection, illness and death” as a result of her behaviour.

The 62-year-old had resisted calls to resign from her seat and urged her constituents not to sign the petition.

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