SCOTTISH Labour will put “everything” into efforts to win Margaret Ferrier’s Westminster seat in the event of a by-election, Better Together’s former chief strategist has said.

Blair McDougall, who also formerly headed up Scottish Labour’s strategy, was speaking on the BBC with eyes on a possible contest in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

The early by-election could be triggered if MPs approve a 30-day suspension from the Commons for Ferrier, who formerly represented the SNP.

The suspension – being longer than 10 days – would launch a recall petition. If 10% of the MP’s constituents sign that petition, the by-election would be triggered.

READ MORE: Ex-SNP MP Margaret Ferrier could face by-election after suspension recommendation

Rutherglen and Hamilton West, having been held by both Labour and the SNP over the past four General Elections, would be a crucial contest between the two parties as Keir Starmer’s party eyes a resurgence in Scotland.

McDougall told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme that Labour would “put everything into this seat”.

It is understood Labour have already begun campaigning in the area in anticipation of a potential vote.

McDougall said Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar would need to “evidence the idea that after Nicola Sturgeon people are looking at the SNP anew, looking at the Labour Party anew, and moving”.

“He can evidence that from a close result or from a victory,” he went on.

“The challenge, and it’s perhaps an unfair one for Humza Yousaf, is he’s not going to be graded on his own performance, he’s going to be graded on his performance compared to Nicola Sturgeon.”

The National: Former Better Together director Blair McDougall

McDougall (above) further said there was an “obvious opportunity” for Labour due to the changes at the top of the SNP, as well as the “change in tone” that had brought.

He claimed there was an opening opportunity “for Sarwar and Starmer to say look, there is a more immediate route to change here [than independence]”.

“There is the ability to vote Labour at the General Election to deliver that change, rather than waiting an indeterminate amount of time.”

Under Sturgeon, Ferrier took the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat for the SNP in 2019 with a majority of some 5200 votes. Labour had won it by just 300 votes in 2017, down from the massive majority of 21,000 the party enjoyed in 2010.

In 2015, the SNP had won the seat by a clear 10,000 vote majority.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry: Yousaf should heed the fate of a no-compromise former Tory PM

Appearing on the BBC alongside McDougall, the SNP’s former communications chief Fergus Mutch said Labour could not count on an easy win in any by-election.

“Labour will certainly fancy their chances but it’s a big test for Anas Sarwar too,” he said.

“If they’re not winning seats like this a year out from a UK General Election, then perhaps they’re not as well positioned to take seats off the SNP as they might think.”

It added that it “may be a bit early [for Labour] to be counting their chickens”.

Labour have visibly stepped up their campaign north of the Border in the wake of Sturgeon's resignation, with Starmer making multiple trips to Scotland in March alone.

Writing in the Guardian on Wednesday, Katherine Sangster, the national manager for the Labour-linked think tank Scottish Fabians, said Sarwar’s party had “gone from potential political extinction to consistently polling about 29%, which would result in around 15 seats in the General Election – up from the current total of one”.

She said Labour could win as many as 25 Scottish seats, adding: “If Labour can win over just one in five SNP voters, 20 seats are within its grasp.”

The National: MP Margaret Ferrier could face a by-election over Covid rule-breaking (Roger Harris/UK Parliament/PA)

First Minister Yousaf has pledged to campaign in Rutherglen and Hamilton West if a by-election takes place.

Asked by journalists about Ferrier (above) after FMQs on Thursday, he said: “We’ve said from day one that Margaret Ferrier should have stepped down because of her reckless action.

“I look forward to fighting that by-election on our strong track record.”

He went on: “We’ll take nothing for granted, we won’t be complacent. We’ve got strong support in Rutherglen and right across that region. But it will take hard work.

“I think the right thing for Margaret Ferrier to do would be to stand down.”

The National:

Ferrier may yet not be handed a 10-day suspension if Tory MPs in the Commons refuse to back it.

The Conservatives on the Commons Standards Committee – who also sit on the Privileges Committee – Alberto Costa, Bernard Jenkin and Charles Walker all tried to reduce her recommended sentence to nine sitting days.

Allan Dorans, an SNP MP who also sits on both committees, also backed the lower sanction which would fall below the crucial threshold.

Reducing the threshold to below 10 days would avoid a potential by-election and also avoid setting a precedent ahead of the recommendations on what punishment Boris Johnson should face if found to have deliberately misled Parliament.