VOTER turnout in Thursday’s by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West was less than 40%, figures revealed.

There is a total electorate of 82,104 in the constituency, but only 30,531 people turned out to vote.

Turnouts are generally lower in by-elections and an SNP source told The National on Thursday evening that they would be surprised if the turnout was above 40%.

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But where in the UK has had the lowest turnout in history?

Where was the lowest turnout?

The lowest turnout in UK electoral history after the Second World War came in the 2012 Manchester Central by-election which had a turnout of just 18.2%.

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The contest was called after Labour’s Tony Lloyd stood down as an MP to run as his party’s police and crime commissioner candidate for Greater Manchester.

Who won the Manchester Central by-election?

The seat was won by Labour’s Lucy Powell (below), who has remained as the area’s MP ever since and currently serves as the shadow leader of the House of Commons.

She picked up just over 11,500 votes which amounted to 69.1% of the vote.

The National: Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell pointed out the discrepancies that still exist between the opportunities and resources available to the men’s and women’s cricket teams (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The candidate in second place meanwhile, the LibDem’s Marc Ramsbottom, picked up just less than 1600 votes – around a 9.4% share of the vote.

What about other low turnouts?

During the Second World War, the electoral register was not kept up to date properly due to significant population movements.

Prior to this, there were three by-elections in which less than 12% of voters turned out. These were:

  • 1942 Poplar South by-election
  • 1941 Harrow by-election
  • 1944 Camberwell North by-election

Only one other by-election after the Second World War in the UK received a turnout lower than 20%.

This happened in 1999 in Leeds Central where just 19.6% of voters took to the polls.

The last Scottish Westminster by-election had a lower turnout than in Rutherglen and Hamilton West. 

At the Airdrie and Shotts by-election in 2021, where the SNP's Anum Qaisar was elected for the party, there were only 21,852 votes cast, a turnout of 34.3%.