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The South Ayrshire by-election of 19 March 1970 was held after the death of Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Emrys Hughes on 18 October 1969. The seat was retained by the Labour Party.

In what was a fairly common occurrence at the time the Scottish Liberal Party did not run a candidate for the by-election. However, in this case the move had been in part instigated by former party leader Jo Grimond who had privately mooted the idea of an electoral pact with the Scottish National Party. Whilst Grimond's idea was rejected by the Scottish Liberal Party as they opposed Scottish independence they did nonetheless agree to give the SNP a free run in this instance.[1]

The SNP had not contested the seat in the past, but during the campaign predicted that the result would be a "photo-finish" between their candidate and the Labour candidate.[2] Both the Conservatives and Labour made complaints to the police about illegal posting of SNP posters during the campaign, while on polling day an incident involving an SNP and a Labour official led to the former making a police complaint.[2]

Marion McCutcheon who turned 18 the day before the election was at the time the youngest person to have voted at a parliamentary election in Scotland.[2]


South Ayrshire, 1970[3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Jim Sillars 20,664 52.68 -14.57
Conservative Christopher Graves 9,778 24.93 -7.82
SNP Sam Purdie 7,785 19.85 N/A
Majority 10,886 27.75 -6.75
Turnout 39,227
Labour hold Swing

They day after the election, but before the votes were counted, The Glasgow Herald reported that the Labour Party candidate seemed "certain to win the seat".[2] After the result was known, the same newspaper's political correspondent, suggested that "so Handsome a victory" for Labour meant Harold Wilson could keep considering the option of calling a general election in the summer.[4]


  1. ^ Michael McManus, Jo Grimond: Towards the Sound of Gunfire, Edinburgh, 2001, p. 308
  2. ^ a b c d Imrie, Ian (20 March 1970). "Rivals in by-election incident". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  3. ^ "1969 By Election Results". Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  4. ^ Warden, John (21 March 1907). "Summer General Election Possible". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 28 August 2019.