DOUBTS have been raised over the First Minister’s independence strategy following the SNP’s defeat at the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.

While some party members told The National they were confident in Humza Yousaf’s bid to trigger independence negotiations following a win of the most Scottish seats rather than votes at the next General Election, a number of figures publicly and privately have called the plan into question.

The loss to Labour’s Michael Shanks, who won the seat after securing more than double the votes of SNP candidate Katy Loudon, has been hotly debated within the party in the wake of the result.

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

While multiple sources told The National they were expecting a loss, some argued that there were specific circumstances in the seat that compounded the impact. Margaret Ferrier being removed from the seat via a recall petition after breaking Covid-19 rules, and the ongoing police probe into the SNP finances, to name a few.

Voter turnout in the by-election was also low, with only 37.19% of the electorate casting a ballot, with a number of SNP sources suggesting that their vote simply stayed at home.

It comes as a new poll put support for independence four points ahead of the Union just hours after the result was known.

One senior SNP source said the party should reflect on the result ahead of the General Election, and that they need to give independence supporters the “real impetus to get out” by centering their approach on independence.

The National: Labour won the by-election by a significant marginLabour won the by-election by a significant margin (Image: PA)

“It was an awful result, we should have done better, but we need to get SNP supporters out. We cannot have independence supporters voting for the Labour party, it cannot stand,” they said.

“We should make every effort to ensure we get these people back and the only way to do that is to convince them that we have a proper strategy for independence.”

When asked if they believed there would be opposition to the First Minister’s motion at the party’s October conference, the source said: “I think there will be a lot of people thinking carefully about what we do next.”

Another party source, who is supportive of the FM’s strategy, contested this adding: “If we don’t fight it on independence what do we fight it on?

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

“What’s the point of voting SNP at a General Election if independence isn’t front and centre?

“To me the strategy does still stand, but it hasn’t been decided yet, we’ve got a debate to have, so we need to get it right.”

And, former SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan (below) publicly called for a rethink of the independence strategy.

“The results of the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election serve as a wake-up call for the SNP and the broader independence movement,” she said.

The National: Ash Regan

“While the loss is disappointing, it provides an invaluable opportunity for introspection and strategic realignment. It is crucial that we listen to the voices of the Scottish people and adapt our approach accordingly.”

SNP MP for Glasgow South Stewart McDonald warned over “over-reading” the by-election result, but said the party should not “dismiss or diminish” the loss.

“We've been skelped, and we need to think deeply about why,” he wrote on Twitter/X.

“Yes, the circumstances of the contest and ongoing investigation are obvious factors, but these numbers - turnout and result - point to something more fundamental.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS - Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election must be wake-up call for SNP

“Let us resist the temptation to rush to a core vote strategy, and instead plot an offer rooted in the future that can bring Scotland behind it. No other route to independence exists.”

Elsewhere, independent MP Angus MacNeil said that polls show people in Scotland want independence but believe the SNP is “clueless about delivering it at the moment”.

We previously told how the FM said he was “confident” that SNP members would support his motion at the party’s conference following a series of regional assemblies over the summer.

A number of amendments seeking to change the wording from "most seats" to "most votes" have been put forward by party members, and will be debated at the conference in the coming weeks. 

Following the by-election result, Yousaf said it was “disappointing”, adding that the party will “reflect” on how to regain the trust of voters in the constituency.