SNP candidate Katy Loudon is running again in a bid to become MP for Rutherglen – and says she believes she can win it this time round despite the previous bruising by-election defeat to Labour

The councillor made a bid for the seat last October in a contest which was billed as a key moment ahead of the General Election and attracted huge attention.

When Labour’s Michael Shanks won by more than double the number of votes polled by the SNP, it was hailed as a “seismic” night by Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

Just three months later, Loudon is preparing to get back into the fray of campaigning – saying she was “always keen to do it again”.

READ MORE: General Election Scotland: Use our map as a seat-by-seat guide

In her first interview since the by-election, Loudon told the Sunday National: “You have got to be ambitious going into an election – you wouldn’t do it otherwise.

“You’ve got to be, and there are the winds of change – all sorts of factors played into the by-election that might or might not play into the General Election.”

She added: “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe we can win, that we can do that. I want to do this job and stand up for the town that I live in.”

The by-election for Rutherglen and Hamilton West in October was the first ever in Scotland triggered by a recall petition, which saw Margaret Ferrier ousted over breaking covid rules.

The seat was won by Ferrier for the SNP in 2019 with a vote share of around 44%, but in the by-election, the party's share had dropped to just under 28%.

By-election 'great fun'

ASKED what made her decide to run again after such a bruising result, Loudon said: “There is no getting away from that, of course it was a disappointing result, but it was great fun, it really was.

“We had a fantastic time as a branch, we always relish the opportunity to get out and speak to as many people as we can, tell them about what our vision is and values are as a party as well.”

The National:

She added: “It’s obviously going to be a very different campaign – by-elections are very strange beasts at the best of times, obviously there were all sorts of circumstances.

“We had the reckless decision that Margaret had made that led us to this point in the first place.

“There was obviously still a fair bit of anger about that.

“I think there was a fair bit of voter apathy as well, people were scunnered, scunnered with politics in general, scunnered with the UK Government and the way things were going.”

Loudon said it was clear from early on that turnout was low for the by-election – it was nearly 17% down on the 2019 General Election – and described that issue as a “real concern” going forward.

She said: “That’s where the hard work is going to be over however many months we have between now and any General Election, and it’s really getting our message out there.

“It’s about three main parts to that message – voting SNP as we are the only party that can get rid of the remaining Tories in Scotland – that’s the only way we are going to be able to do that, there’s so many seats that are a straight Tory/SNP fight.

“We know who the next Prime Minister is going to be, that’s not a surprise. However, although there is an inevitability to that, there is nothing sure as fate that what will follow a Labour government, regardless of how long it lasts, is a Tory government.

'Representing Scotland's values'

“SO the other part of the message is independence is the only way we can get Scotland out of this mess the Tories have created and will continue if they ever get back in power.

"The other one is about the difference that SNP MPs can make and have made and will make in Westminster.

"It’s not just about having a voice for the constituency and a voice for Scotland, but it is about values."

The polls suggest the next UK election will not be an easy one for the SNP,  with support slipping after the party faced a turbulent year which included a leadership contest and a high-profile police investigation into the party’s finances.

Asked if she is worried, Loudon said: “Polls are polls. The only poll that matters is the one on the day.

“The polls are still showing that we would win most seats in the country and that’s with everything going on in what’s been a very difficult year for us – election campaigning hasn’t started in earnest yet.”

The National:

When it comes to her rival Shanks (above left), Loudon describes him as “Keir Starmer’s man in Rutherglen” and says there has been discontent among voters, particularly about his stance on a ceasefire in Gaza.

He was among those to back the UK Labour leader’s call for a “humanitarian pause” as opposed to a ceasefire.

READ MORE: Rutherglen: Protest to be held over Michael Shanks' Gaza stance

“There are rumblings in the constituency already about how the new MP hasn’t covered himself in glory, in terms of representing the values that people hold here,” Loudon said.

“We had a big protest outside the town hall that we are sitting in just now just a few weeks ago [on his stance on Gaza] which is reflective of that.”

Shanks, who was appointed as a shadow Scotland Office minister following his win, is expected to defend his seat whenever the General Election takes place.

But the contest won’t be an exact rerun, as the constituency will be affected by boundary changes and known just as Rutherglen this time round.

Loudon said while it was still in the very early stages of the campaign, a key part was making connections with the branch in the new part of the constituency and going out to meet people there.

'General Election radars now pinging'

As she puts it, the whole area was “canvassed to death” during the by-election – so does she think people will be interested this time round?

“Again it is by-election versus General Election,” Loudon said.

“I think people’s General Election radars are pinging.”

When it comes to whether it will be such a pressured campaign as the by-election this time around, Loudon said it “remains to be seen”.

“I don’t think I am ever going to have the experience again of crossing the road on the way from one meeting to another and there’s a journalist that comes up and introduces himself and says he writes for a German magazine and can he get five minutes,” she said.

“We do always get a wee bit of national attention in Rutherglen, just because we are one of the first to declare, as we seem to be particularly fast at counting in South Lanarkshire.

“But in terms of the actual work that needs to be done – going out, chapping doors, speaking to people, the leafleting, the writing letters, pulling together a team, finding which activists have which strengths ... we did all of that the last time and we will be doing all of it again.”