George Galloway will not stand in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election – despite crowd funding more than £12,000 for a campaign.
The firebrand former MP told The Sunday Post he is currently working abroad and has no intention of fighting for the seat.
Galloway raised £12,239 from 422 supporters over 45 days in late 2020, saying any unspent cash would help contest the upcoming Holyrood election.
In a video appealing for donations at the time, he assured backers a by-election is “inevitable” following the Covid rule-breaking of former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier.
‘All the way to victory’
At the time he vowed: “This train, which has left the station, is going all the way to victory.”
But after a landmark election contest was confirmed earlier this week, Galloway insisted the only two parties that should run are Labour and the SNP.
He said: “I think nobody should stand except the best placed pro-Union candidate, which in this case is obviously Labour.
“It should be a straight Labour-SNP fight and that should be the case in every contest until we have ridden Scotland of this scourge of separatism.”
Galloway told us the £12,239 donated to the Rutherglen and Hamilton West fundraiser was instead used as a “fighting fund” for his now defunct All For Unity party at the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.
According to Electoral Commission receipts, that means more than 40% of the money spent by the party during the campaign came from a crowd-funder for an election Galloway will now not be taking part in.
He said: “We could not have been clearer.
“We said in the fundraiser that any funds not spent on a by-election will be spent on the Holyrood election of ’21.
“It’s been a long time waiting on this by-election.”
Speaking at the time, Galloway claimed he could get the necessary signatures to force a by-election in a single weekend, if not an afternoon.
Covid rules broken
A contest in Rutherglen was finally confirmed on August 1 after nearly 12,000 constituents voted for Ferrier to be removed from her seat.
She was suspended from the Commons for 30 days after being convicted of breaking travel rules during lockdown.
She travelled to London and spoke in the Commons while awaiting the result of a Covid test in 2020. She then got a train home to Glasgow after testing positive.
Ferrier confirmed she will not stand in the election.
The seat she leaves behind will become a major political contest as Labour attempts to rebuild its credentials as an election-winner in Scotland.
Officially, the by-election campaign will only get underway once a writ has been issued in the Commons.
But in reality, the campaign in Rutherglen and Hamilton West has been running for months.
The constituency has swung between Labour and the SNP in recent years.
It is seen as the first real test of shifting allegiances in Scottish politics following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as first minister in February.
Overturning the SNP’s 5,000-vote majority will be crucial as Labour attempts to build momentum ahead of the next general election.
It is also the first major test at the ballot box for new SNP leader Humza Yousaf as he contends with an ongoing police investigation into the party’s finances and questions over transparency.
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