THE Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election result has reignited debate within the SNP and wider independence movement over the strategy for getting Scotland out of the Union. 

With Humza Yousaf set on making a majority of seats at the next election a mandate for negotiations with the UK Government, rather than a majority of votes as some within the party are calling for, Labour's uplift in support has sparked discussion over the best way forward.

Early on Friday morning, Labour's Michael Shanks won 17,845 votes, well ahead of the 8399 votes returned for the SNP's Katy Loudon in a result described as "disappointing" by the First Minister

READ MORE: RECAP: Reaction as Labour win Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election

On the same day, a new report from the Tony Blair Institute found support for independence leads support for remaining in the Union by four points - indicating while backing for the SNP is definitely suffering, Yes voters aren't being fazed. 

So while SNP members entered conversations about mandates, de-facto votes and internal process on Friday, we went to figures inside and outside of the party, from different factions of the movement, to ask for their advice on how Yousaf and co should regain the trust of Yes supporters. Here's what they had to say.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp (Believe in Scotland, Business for Scotland)

The National: Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp said he is ready for the next stage of the push for independence

Thursday's by-election result is what happens when the SNP doesn't appeal to the wider Yes movement. Pro-indy voters sit on their hands and the SNP lose seats. 

This is what happened in 2017 and it will happen again in 2024. Unless the SNP campaign for independence at GE 2024, they will lose 20 seats to Labour.

SNP insiders talk about how the cost-of-living-crisis and getting rid of the Tories are the key issues in the polls. That may be the case, but only because the SNP have failed to promote an inspiring vision for indy and a plan to make it happen that would make it poll higher.

Independence is the answer to the cost of living crisis, Independence is the answer to getting rid of the Tories for good and independence is how we can build a better future for Scotland than Broken Britain can ever provide.

This coming SNP conference is the most important in the party's history. Either they strengthen the Route to Indy motion and back it up with a detailed plan to transition to a wellbeing economy including the wellbeing pension or they will collapse at GE24, setting independence back a decade.

Jonathon Shafi (Independence Captured author and activist)

The National: Jonathon Shafi

There will be a 1hr 40mins “debate” about independence strategy at the party conference this month. But there is no viable plan nor sustainable majority for independence – despite the crisis engulfing the British state in recent years.

A majority of seats cannot amount to a powerful mandate for independence. Why should it, if the vote share and the number of SNP MPs are reduced from the last one? On the other hand, proposing a “de facto” referendum based on a majority of the popular vote, in these circumstances especially, is the road to ruin. In reality, both relate not to the realisation of independence, but to the dimensions of the SNP’s electoral calculus. It is, to be frank, checkmate. And one caused, at least in part, by a series of unforced errors. 

That is why some within the party are also pitching the idea that the SNP should now soft-peddle independence in general and focus on economic concerns and the cost-of-living, or on winning more devolved powers. That, it is claimed, would be preferable to a hard turn towards an independence that no one seriously believes is going to happen any time soon. 

Joanna Cherry (SNP MP)

The National: SNP MP Joanna Cherry appearing at The Stand's New Town Theatre

This result should be a major wake up call to those who didn’t listen to Kate Forbes’s advice that “continuity won’t cut it” and to those who have devoted their time and energies to pushing anyone who disagrees with them out of our party. Unless we change direction, this result could be repeated across Scotland.

The low turnout and the massive swing to Labour reflect a disaffection from our former supporters with a series of policy missteps, a lack of vision and a failure to move the cause of independence forward. We need to get back to taking public opinion and our own supporters with us on policy rather than lecturing people and we need to do it fast.

The way we campaign also needs to be addressed. At a technical level the SNP has fallen way behind the other big parties in our use of data and despite a conference motion asking for this to be addressed last year nothing has happened.

The identity politics the party has been pursuing to fill the void in policy making have been very divisive. This was revealed during the campaign when SNP activists and councillors saw fit to picket outside a hustings focusing on women’s issues. We need to get back to agreeing to disagree in a civilised fashion and pushing forward the cause of independence with well-reasoned policies for the big challenges facing our country.

Kelly Given (Campaigner and columnist)

The National:

Indisputably a difficult night for the SNP - one anyone with their finger on the political pulse could see coming from a mile off. Yet, I’m not convinced Labour should get comfortable in their win too quickly.

Turnout was significantly lower than to be expected not just from any by-election, but a high-profile one that seen the major contenders drafting in their biggest names to secure the seat. It doesn’t quite speak to an electorate that can’t wait to usher Starmer into Number 10. Similarly, it doesn’t speak to an electorate overly enamoured with the SNP. Arguably, the biggest takeaway from this by-election is that there’s a lack of interest in any party - and the apathy amongst voters can’t mean anything positive for anyone should it continue.

What is clear, is that Scotland wants rid of the Tories - and independence voters are willing to back Labour Unionism if that means locking Sunak out of Downing Street.

As independence support rises parallel to the decline in party support - the SNP’s winning power depends on their ability to convince voters of the short-term nature of that solution.

Do we want them out for now, or do we want them out for good?

READ MORE: John Curtice: 'Uncertain' if Labour have 'sealed the deal' with electorate

Robin McAlpine (Common Weal)

The National: Robin McAlpine has spent three years crafting a new strategy to win independence

There are two things you need to do at a moment like this. The first is that you need to have the strength to look inwards honestly and understand the reasons you’re loosing people’s confidence.

The second is to find a way back out again; meaningful responses to what you find which stop you getting lost in navel gazing.

The SNP have been in denial about the impact of some of what has been happening. It gives the impression that if voters or party members have doubts, they’re the problem.

Unless the party can persuade people that it gets it, that it understands why they aren’t enthusiastic about what it is offering just now, and unless it can deliver some kind of real change, the party is at risk of sustained decline.

Daniel Jack (National Executive member, Alba)

The National:

I spent the first referendum campaign as a senior diplomat representing Scotland in the USA.

I am returning to Scotland as a political activist still hoping and expecting a further democratic opportunity for freedom to emerge over the next few years.

However, my experience gives me a certain detachment from the day to day hurly-burly of Scottish politics. This allows a clear sighted view of the difference between 2014 and now. Although I am a member of the Alba Party, my first loyalty is to the cause of independence and I wish all pro-independence parties well.

My advice to the SNP is this: Firstly, rediscover your independence mojo. No one, friend or foe, doubted the seriousness of intent of the Salmond government for independence. That is simply no longer there.

Secondly, get the likes of Angus Brendan MacNeil and Fergus Ewing back into the SNP and ask the Greens to leave the Government. It’s fine to have the Scottish Green as a legitimate part of the independence campaign but a disastrous liability to have them in government. They on a daily basis are largely responsible for destroying the SNP’s hard-won reputation for governmental competence.

Thirdly, co-operate in an open-hearted manner with other independence parties and stop trying to stifle the Yes movement. To the outside view, the SNP’s army of apparatchiks look like a gaggle of people jockeying for position and nothing at all like the glorious cross and non-party flowering of passion and principle of the high summer of 2014.

Now not all of the above is Humza Yousaf’s fault. His predecessor is greatly to blame. However, he is the man behind the eight-ball and he has to change course decisively and right now because in the words of the old song: "It is later than you think."

Iona Fyfe

The National: Iona Fyfe will perform at the next Folk at the Maltings online concert.

When I read that it was most likely a Labour gain and we were really waiting for margins, I had no idea that the swing would be as much as 20%.

Whilst it was a hard by-election, I do think it was fought under exceptionally difficult and unprecedented circumstances for the SNP. I do believe that some voters are still feeling sore and rightfully angry about the Ferrier Covid scandal. It’s a swing seat after all.  I wonder – if the same situation had happened in a constituency such as Dundee East or West, would it have still had such an impact in diverting SNP voters in this area.

One cannot gloss over the sheer number of resources, effort and manpower that all parties put into fighting the by-election. The same impetus of Keir Starmer popping up every few weeks on the campaign trail is not something physically and logistically be replicated in a General Election.

It’s wrong to draw conclusions or predictions and extrapolate out of one singular by-election and we should not allow this set-back to get us down. Humza’s statement perfectly encapsulates this; reflect, regroup and reorganise.