THE Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election campaign trail has been a long one with plenty of twists and turns.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in various parts of the constituency over the summer and into autumn, and there are a few things that have stuck out along the way.

It was a campaign that started well before the October 5 ballot box date was set, with both the SNP and Labour launching their candidates in advance of the official announcement, and both parties having not one, but two launches.

READ MORE: Katy Loudon urges Rutherglen voters to 'send a message to Westminster'

It has been a tense battle for Margaret Ferrier’s old seat, with a whopping 14 candidates putting themselves forward to be Scotland’s next MP.

Here are some interesting bits I’ve picked up along the way.

What’s in a question?

Not all questions on the by-election campaign trail have been about the by-election, and I must admit I was guilty of slipping in a probing question here and there, but that’s what happens when you have consistent access to the First Minister.

There was one campaign press call in a Rutherglen nursery where Humza Yousaf was asked almost exclusively about his independence strategy motion after it had been published, with a couple of questions about other issues peppered in as well.

Other press calls ranged from MP selection rows to strikes to anything and everything under the sun. It is politics, after all.

And, the locations of the media calls have been wide-ranging, from a Tesco car park in Cambuslang, to the top of a windy hill behind a miners' monument and various community centres. Journalists have been all over the constituency in the past few months. 

The National:

Typical Labour dodging

Labour have been quite reluctant to invite National reporters to their campaign events, or on some occasions, print journalists at all.

On that same Rutherglen nursery visit, broadcasters told print reporters (much to our confusion) that shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves had been visiting Scotland earlier that day. The majority of us were not aware of that.

Flash-forward to the last week of the campaign and Keir Starmer’s visit to the constituency. There was a bit of a behind-the-scenes row about the media invite, stating that he would only speak to broadcasters. He eventually relented, but then Anas Sarwar spent most of the time answering questions directed at the UK leader.

“Whatever I say will be what Anas Sarwar says,” Starmer told my colleague who insisted he give his view, rather than letting Sarwar answer on his behalf.

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Voter ID is a big concern

This by-election will be the first in Scotland where voters will be required to produce photographic ID at the ballot box after the Tories passed the Elections Act 2022.

SNP canvassers have been making sure locals were aware they would need to bring it along if they wanted to vote.

During the local council elections in England in 2022, an estimated 14,000 people were turned away from the ballot box because they didn't have the right identification. The Electoral Commission, which conducted a study in the aftermath of the election, also said the overall number of people denied a vote could be considerably higher. 

What impact this could have on the result in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, and how many people could be turned away, is still unclear. But parties have been making a big push to make sure it's on locals' radar, so we’ll have to wait and see.

The National:

It takes a village

I got a little bit of insight into the SNP’s approach to the campaign at candidate Katy Loudon’s hub just off Rutherglen High Street earlier this week.

Access to plenty of chips and sweet treats were key to keeping campaign teams spirits up, one source at the venue told me, and there was a pile of half-eaten biscuits there to prove the point.

I also ran into a number of activists from various parts of Scotland who had joined the campaign and were hitting doorsteps across the constituency as the final days of the contest loomed. Loudon told me she was grateful for the support she’d received, and the hub was bustling.

Contrary to media reports, a number of MSPs were spotted out on the trail as well.

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You can never call it

Labour clearly think they have this seat and contest in the bag, if betting odds and polls are anything to go by. But a by-election is never a simple exercise, and Hamilton has a history of shock by-election results (Winnie Ewing, anyone?), so it would be foolish to place your bets as we head into the final days.

One thing is for sure, the Tories have barely been taking the contest seriously, with candidate Thomas Kerr attempting to use gender reforms as a wedge issue on the TV debate, and Douglas Ross having the gall to show up to campaign, finally ... but not actually speaking to any voters in the area.