IT was always going to be a long night in Hamilton as the vote count was underway, but Labour were quietly confident from the outset that they had won the seat from the SNP.

The huge number of postal votes that came in were likely to play a hand in this, as was the low turnout, with only 37.19% of the electorate taking to the ballot box.

In the early hours of the count at South Lanarkshire Council’s headquarters, journalists filed into the well-organised hall to get a feel for the operation and how it was going.

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

Journalists and others at the count were provided with a detailed election pack, with a layout of the hall floor and swathes of information on how the night was set to go. I’d certainly seen nothing like it, having usually frequented Glasgow vote counts that I would describe as a free for all.

It didn’t take long for SNP figures to start conceding that they were likely to have lost, nor for Labour members in the room to be visibly assured that their candidate was going to win.

But it was a long night to get to that final moment when Shanks was declared the winner - and no one was quite willing to call it until the last votes had been counted.

When the low voter turnout was announced, 30,531 voters cast their ballot out of an electorate of 82,104, one Labour source could be heard saying that was a “good result”, notably higher than the last by-election in Airdrie and Shotts.

The National:

This was strongly contested by the SNP’s David Linden, who I caught for a chat in a hallway outside of the hospitality suite - providing free teas, coffees and Tunnocks teacakes - at around quarter to one in the morning.

“As a democrat, I would like to think six in ten voters not voting in an election is not something we should consider to be good,” the MP for Glasgow East said.

“We need to look at why we’ve not managed to get more people out to the polling stations, but for Labour to claim somehow that this is a massive validation for their campaign, I think most folk in the cold light of day would say is a bit extraordinary.”

Linden and Scottish Labour MSP Paul O’Kane were the designated talking heads for the media while the vote count was underway. O’Kane told me he had been filling space by informing reporters what Shanks had for dinner.

​READ MORE: AS IT HAPPENED: Labour win new Scottish MP in Westminster by-election

There was also a marked difference in how the SNP and Labour candidates were welcomed to the hall by the media. The SNP’s candidate Katy Loudon appeared almost out of nowhere shortly after the voter turnout was announced, while a media scrum was prepared and waiting for Shanks’s arrival.

As the night went on, SNP sources became more resigned to defeat, with many admitting, as the First Minister would on Friday to broadcasters, that it seemed as if their supporters had not turned out to vote.

By the time the declaration came at just before 2am, Shanks’s win came as a surprise to no-one.

What was a surprise was the scale of his win. Shanks (below) defeated Loudon by 17,845 votes to 8399.

The National:

While Loudon swiftly left the hall after the result, Shanks and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar immediately launched into broadcast interviews.

Sarwar, as expected, used the win to declare that a “seismic” shift had occurred in Scottish politics, that it was a sign his party would form the next Westminster government.

Well, that still remains to be seen, by-elections are odd events after all.