Airdrie and Shotts by-election: What you need to know

Today will see residents of Airdrie and Shotts take to the polls for the second time in a week.

This time, the vote will be to decide on a new MP for the constituency to serve Westminster, after incumbent Neil Gray resigned to take up a seat as an MSP, under new SNP rules.

SNP candidate Anum Qaisar Javed will be hoping to hold Mr Gray’s near-5,000-strong lead over Scottish Labour.

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Ms Qaisar Javed, who was previously a case worker for an SNP MSP and a parliamentary researcher to an SNP MP, and has been involved in SNP politics since the 2014 referendum, was out campaigning on Wednesday morning with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

Anum Qaisar-Javed at Empire School of Dance in Airdrie during campaigning for the Airdrie and Shotts by-election.

The by-election will take place in same week as Mr Gray is sworn in as a new MSP at Holyrood.

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The First Minister said on Twitter: “Great to join @Ianblackford_MP this morning in support of @AnumQaisarJaved our fantastic candidate in Airdrie & Shotts Westminster by-election. For a strong voice for the constituency, please #VoteSNP.”

Ms Qaisar Javed will stand against Scottish Labour’s Kenneth Stevenson, who party leader Anas Sarwar this week described as “Labour to his core” and said that if elected, he would be a “champion” for the people of Airdrie and Shotts.

Scottish National Party's (SNP) newly elected Neil Gray arrives for registration at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh.

Another six candidates, from parties including the Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens, will also stand.

Mr Sarwar said the new group of Labour MSPs was “laser-focused” on fighting for Scotland’s national recovery.

“Across the country, Labour is focusing on what unites the people of Scotland and is building the alternative to the SNP,” he said, urging voters to “join us on that journey”.

The last election in 2019 saw Mr Gray take 45 per cent of the votes, with 17,929, followed by Scottish Labour’s Helen McFarlane on 12,728.

Ben Callaghan will today stand as the candidate for the Scottish Conservatives, which was the third party in the last election for the Airdrie and Shotts seat.

Ms Qaisar Javed stood as candidate for the SNP in the Murdouston ward in the 2017 North Lanarkshire Council elections, but previously held the role of the former general secretary of Muslim Friends of Labour.

Under SNP rules, anyone taking up a seat as an MSP must not continue to work as an MP as well. However, other parties do not necessarily have the same regulations.

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross recently defended his plans to work as both an MP and MSP following the Holyrood election, pointing to former first minister Alex Salmond and others who were “dual mandate” parliamentarians.

Sitting as the MP for Moray since 2017, Mr Ross pledged to continue the role despite now being a list MSP for the Highlands & Islands.

The SNP changed its rules last year to ban “dual mandates” for SNP politicians.

MP Joanna Cherry ruled out standing for Ruth Davidson's Holyrood seat in Edinburgh following the change in regulations approved by the SNP’s governing body.

Other politicians who have previously held dual mandates include SNP deputy leader John Swinney, who was was both an MP for Tayside North and MSP for North Tayside from 1999-2001.

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