Paul Murphie, Senior Account Manager, fills us in on the upcoming Airdrie & Shotts by-election.
Amid the drama of the Holyrood election campaign, you’d have been forgiven for forgetting about another election in Scotland coming up this week. Neil Gray, the SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts, resigned so he could contest the same seat in the Scottish Parliament, meaning voters in North Lanarkshire will head to the polls once again on Thursday 13 May in a by-election to select the constituency’s next MP.
While the SNP will be hopeful about its chances, Labour will be optimistically eyeing the seat as an opportunity to strike back at the SNP in its traditional heartland. So what prospect is there of Anas Sarwar’s party causing an upset? The SNP is defending a 5,201 majority in the seat, having substantially increased its majority in the general election in 2019, when Neil Gray defeated the Labour candidate Helen McFarlane. He has held the seat since defeating Labour’s Pamela Nash in 2015. However, a look back at the constituency’s recent electoral history shows the SNP is not guaranteed of success – in 2017, Neil Gray held the seat by a margin of 192 votes in one of the closest races of the general election that year.
With the SNP’s majority not insurmountable, Labour will view the seat as winnable if it finds a way of cobbling together a coalition of anti-independence voters around its candidate, Kenneth Stevenson. The party may also be helped if disaffected SNP supporters decide to stay at home or back other candidates, given neither the make-up of the Scottish Government nor independence is at stake.
Meanwhile, SNP candidate Anum Qaisar-Javed will be optimistic about her Westminster prospects after Neil Gray’s election in the Holyrood constituency last Thursday. The Conservative candidate, Ben Callaghan, will be keen to reinforce his party’s position in third place while Liberal Democrat Stephen Arrundale will hope to see off challengers from minor parties in fourth place. The slight increase in its vote share last week will give Labour cause for hope, but given Neil Gray was returned on Thursday with a majority of over 5,000, it would appear to be a tall order for the party.
The results are expected to be announced on Friday.