THERE are just days to go before voters in Rutherglen and Hamilton West go to the ballot box to elect Scotland's next MP.

It has been a long couple of months as candidates put their pitches forward to residents in the area - but what are the key policies and points of contention that have come across during the campaign?

We’ve pulled together a brief list of the top five issues dominating the contest ahead of polling day on Thursday, October 5.

READ MORE: 14 candidates standing in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election

The cost of living crisis

To no one's surprise, the squeeze on households caused by a cacophony of terrible Tory policies from Brexit to Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget has dominated the campaign.

Everyone in Scotland is feeling the pinch, and candidates have definitely focussed their efforts on putting across pitches to voters that electing them would send a message to the Tories.

The SNP’s Katy Loudon has vowed to press for real cost of living support if she is elected, such as calling for mortgage relief and reinstating the £400 energy rebate.

Labour’s candidate Michael Shanks (below) has called for a windfall tax, and pitched the party’s plan to make work pay, including banning zero hour contracts and outlawing fire and rehire. Policies which were thrown in doubt just weeks ago. 

The National: Michael Shanks and Anas Sarwar

Meanwhile, Thomas Kerr, the Tory candidate who backed Truss’s mini-budget, has been a bit quieter on that front.


Leaving the EU has undoubtedly had its impact, and has been a dividing line amongst candidates. While Loudon has campaigned for Scotland to rejoin the EU through independence, Shanks has insisted that now is “not the time” to have the discussion about rejoining the bloc.

He did however try to distance himself from Keir Starmer, claiming that he still sees the UK as “having a place in the European Union”, in contrast to his leader’s decision to embrace a hard Brexit.

While Labour tried to move on past the issue, the SNP held a campaign day focussing solely on Europe. The party also revealed figures that showed South Lanarkshire has lost £146 million on EU imports and exports since Brexit, as well as almost £10m in direct EU funding.

Shanks previously quit Labour over its Brexit stance and described its approach to the issue as “bankrupt”, before he became the party’s candidate.

READ MORE: I've been in Rutherglen reporting on the by-election - here's what I've learned

Two-child benefit cap

The cruel Tory policy, which means families who claim child tax credits or Universal Credit can only do so for their first two children, became a defining feature of the early days of the campaign.

While Starmer has said he would implement the policy more “fairly” than the Tories have, the SNP’s candidate Loudon has said she would bring a Private Member’s Bill forward in a bid to scrap it entirely if she is elected.

According to the Child Poverty Action Group, a total of 1620 kids are affected by the cap in the area, with many more children across Scotland impacted.

The National: Stephen Flynn and Katy Loudon

Voter ID

It is a new requirement for voters to bring photographic identification to the ballot box, as the by-election is the first Westminster election in Scotland since the Elections Act was introduced.

There are cross-party concerns that voters could be turned away from polling stations due to the Tory policy, widely described as voter suppression.

It has only been used during the English local authority elections, where an estimated 14,000 people were denied a vote because they didn’t have the correct identification.

But while candidates have admitted it is a “concern”, there has been a push to raise awareness in the constituency ahead of polling day.

READ MORE: Labour U-turn on North Lanarkshire leisure centre cuts


While Unionist parties may like to decry the suggestion that independence has played a feature in this by-election campaign, it undoubtedly has.

With the SNP conference looming just a few weeks after the result will be known, there has been plenty of chatter about what the outcome of this by-election will mean, not just for the SNP’s electoral future and hopes at the General Election, and of course Labour’s, but the future of any independence strategy and how effective that may be.

It also ties into a number of issues that have dominated the campaign - the cost of living crisis, Brexit, and cruel Tory policies such as the two-child benefit cap and Voter ID.

While pro-Union candidates may not like to talk about it, there is definitely a case to be made that electing a pro-independence MP, particularly after the circumstances that allowed the recall petition to be called by removing Margaret Ferrier, would send a serious message to Westminster.