Hamilton: Labour win by just 600 votes

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The Independent Online
LABOUR last night suffered a major setback when the Scottish National Party came within 600 votes of overturning a majority of nearly 16,000 in the Hamilton South by-election.

The result was a stunning triumph for the SNP, which secured a 22 per cent swing from Labour on the 1997 General Election.

If this swing were repeated in an election for the Scottish Assembly, it would put the SNP in a position to create a coalition with a minor party and control the Scottish executive. This first post-devolution Scottish by-election will confirm Labour fears that devolution has failed to stem the tide of nationalism.

Annabelle Ewing, the SNP candidate, said: "There is no longer any safe Labour seat in Scotland. This is now a marginal seat and so is every Labour seat in Scotland."

Bill Tynan, Labour's candidate, polled just 7,172 votes compared with 21,709 taken in 1997 by George Robertson, whose elevation to the Lords when appointed Nato secretary-general created the vacancy. Mr Tynan said the result was a mark of "how the people of Hamilton South have again put their trust in Labour".

But the collapse of Labour's vote will deeply worry party managers who fought a vigorous campaign, bringing in all its big guns to show an election- weary constituency that it did not take the result for granted.

Ms Ewing, daughter of Winnie Ewing, who beat Labour in another Hamilton by-election upset in 1967, had not expected to run Labour so close.

This afternoon's keynote speech at the SNP conference in Inverness by Alex Salmond, the leader, is likely to be dominated by celebrations.

The result was also a triumph for the fledgling Scottish Socialist Party, whose candidate, Shareen Blackall, polled 1,847 votes, pushing the Conservatives' Charles Ferguson into fourth. The Liberal Democrats lost their deposit.

In Wigan,which has returned Labour MPs since 1918, the tradition was continued as Neil Turner won in another painfully low by-election turn- out. Only 25 per cent voted, little improvement on the 19 per cent in Leeds Central in June. The town gave 60 per cent of its vote to Mr Turner, who secured 9,641 votes. The Conservatives' Tom Peet took 2,912 votes.

HAMILTON SOUTH Full result Bill Tynan (Lab) 7,172 (36.87%, - 28.73%) Ms Annabelle Ewing (SNP) 6,616 (34.01%, +16.39%) Ms Shareen Blackall (SSP) 1,847 (9.49%) Charles Ferguson (C) 1,406 (7.23%, -1.41%) Stephen Mungall (Accies) 1,075 (5.53%) Ms Marilyne MacLaren (LD) 634 (3.26%, -1.86%) Ms Monica Burns (ProLife) 257 (1.32%, -0.75%) Tom Dewar (Soc Lab) 238 (1.22%) James Reid (SUP) 113 (0.58%) Alistair McConnachie (UK Ind) 61 (0.31%) George Stidolph (NLP) 18 (0.09%) John Drummond Murray (Status Quo) 17 (0.09%) Lab maj 556 (2.86%) 22.56% swing Lab to SNP Electorate 47,071; Turnout 19,454 (41.33%, - 29.74%) 1997: Lab maj 15,878 (47.98%), turnout 33,091 (71.07%). Robertson (Lab) 21,709 (65.60%); Black (SNP) 5,831 (17.62%); Kilgour (C) 2,858 (8.64%); Pitts (LD) 1,693 (5.12%); Gunn (ProLife) 684 (2.07%); Brown (Ref) 316 (0.95%).

WIGAN Full result: Neil Turner (Lab) 9,641; Tom Peet (C) 2,912; Jonathan Rule (LD) 2,148; Chris Maile (Green) 190; David Braid (Reverend) 58; Stephen Ebbs (National Democratic Resistance) 100; Paul Davis (Natural Law Party) 64; William Kelly (Socialist Labour Party) 240; John Whittaker (UK Independence Party) 834.