SNP on a high as bookies cut odds

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BOOKMAKERS yesterday cut the odds of an SNP win in the Glenrothes by-election, as the Nationalists claimed swing voters were switching to them.

SNP campaigners reported a surge in support on the ground, particularly with undecided voters or former Labour supporters switching their backing to the Nationalists in the key seat.

Losing Glenrothes, which neighbours the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency of Gordon Brown, would pile pressure on the Prime Minister, as Labour insiders admitted if they could not win in his home territory, they would struggle to win anywhere.

Meanwhile, Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, courted controversy during a brief visit to the constituency yesterday when she admitted ministers feared any result which would give David Cameron, the Tory leader, evidence of growing support for his party ahead of the next general election.

She said Labour's main concern was to make sure that nothing happened "which will encourage David Cameron".

And she added: "Obviously, the SNP won't form the next (UK] government, so we don't want any satisfaction delivered to David Cameron with the result here."

However, one Labour insider last night insisted morale remained high and the party had not given up. The source said: "

We were miles behind five weeks ago but we have narrowed the gap. Whether we have narrowed the gap enough to win, we don't know."

William Hill shortened the SNP odds from 5/6 to 4/9, a sharp contrast to speculation Labour was enjoying a "Brown bounce" following the Prime Minister's bank bail-out package.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP's deputy leader, insisted the momentum was now behind her party, not least because of the 1,000-strong grassroots activists who came from as far as the north Highlands and the Borders to canvass over last weekend.

"Personal contact is helping us to close the deal. People here appreciate the hard work the SNP has put in on the ground," she said.

Ms Sturgeon contrasted this with the Prime Minister's attempts to portray himself as a hands-on campaigner.

"Gordon Brown has come here a few times to speak to a handful of carefully selected people," she said.

Ms Sturgeon predicted victory, saying "I think we will win. By-elections are never easy, I don't think it will be a landslide and we can't take anything for granted, but we are on course for victory."

One of the staff at the Kingdom Shopping Centre in central Glenrothes, told The Scotsman: "The only politician we have not seen in here has been Gordon Brown. We could have really done with his visit. Times are hard and we need all the publicity we can get."

'Arrogant' Salmond boasted of result – in October

THE SNP has been accused of arrogance after it emerged Alex Salmond applauded the party's by-election result weeks before the contest even took place.

In a foreword to the agenda for SNP's annual conference, the First Minister praised the Nationalists' results in the by-elections of Glasgow East and Glenrothes, although the latter had not yet taken place. He wrote:

"The Glasgow East and Glenrothes by-elections put us well on our way to reach our target of 20 MPs at the Westminster election."

Labour seized on Mr Salmond's words, written before the party's conference began in Perth on 16 October, and weeks in advance of the Glenrothes vote – which takes place tomorrow.

John Park, the Labour MSP, said: "Unlike the SNP, Labour never takes votes for granted. It's hugely offensive of the SNP to claim that they know, in advance, how Fifers are going to vote before a single ballot has been cast."