UNIONIST voters across Scotland will switch from Labour to the Tories just as Tory voters switched to Labour in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, the Scots Conservative chair has insisted after a humiliating defeat.

Thomas Kerr, the Scottish Conservative candidate in the by-election won by Labour on Friday morning, lost his £500 deposit after failing to win 5% of the vote.

Just 3.9% of voters – 1192 people – backed the Tory candidate. The SNP won 8399 votes (27.6%), while Labour’s Michael Shanks came out top with 17,845 votes (58.6%).

Asked about the poor result for the Conservatives, Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy insisted it would not reflect a wider collapse for the party.

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Instead, the MSP said: “I predicted at the outset this evening it was going to be a challenging night for us, because in a two-horse race where we were a distant third, it stood to reason that we were going to be squeezed.

“But that is not going to be the case right throughout the country.

“I think Professor Sir John [Curtice] alluded to that. There are many seats where it's a straight fight between ourselves and the SNP. And in those seats, you could expect pro-UK voters to coalesce around the Conservatives.”

He went on: “By-elections are funny things. The by-election in Somerton and Frome, Labour got their worst-ever result and that was 2.6%. So these things happen in by-elections.

“I think, as my colleague Meghan Gallacher alluded to, in the by-election just a year before the Scottish parliamentary election where Ruth Davidson got her record 31 seats, we lost our deposit in a seat in Glasgow North East.

“It was one candidate, Annie Wells, and Annie Wells went on to be elected as a Glasgow MSP the next year, so you cannot read too much into a by-election.”

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First Minister Humza Yousaf (above) said the “disappointing” result for the SNP had come, at least in part, because Unionist voters had switched from Tory to Labour.

He said: “Circumstances of this by-election were always very difficult for us. Collapse in the Tory vote, which went straight to Labour, also a significant factor.

“We lost this seat in 2017, and like 2019 we can win this seat back. However, we will reflect on what we have to do to regain the trust of the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West.”

And SNP depute leader Keith Brown added: “As the Tories face the prospect of losing all their seats in Scotland, with a devastating result that saw them lose their deposit, it's Sir Keir Starmer’s pro-Brexit Labour Party that benefitted from support from Tory voters."