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SNP’s Stewart Hosie hopes to stop Labour takeover in Dundee after shock poll

The veteran nationalist is stepping back from Westminster - but as SNP campaign director for the election, he tells The Courier there's still a challenge ahead.

Stewart Hosie Dundee SNP
Stewart Hosie is standing down as a Dundee MP after nearly two decades. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

Retiring Dundee MP Stewart Hosie hopes the city will “keep faith” with the SNP after a shock poll predicted a Labour resurgence.

The veteran former Dundee East MP was just preparing for life after Westminster when one major survey of local opinion threw up a big surprise.

As the SNP’s campaign director, it means he still has a massive challenge on his hands despite quitting the Commons himself.

The poll last week had Labour winning across Dundee and into a new constituency taking in Broughty Ferry and Arbroath.

Some polls have the SNP holding up well, while others project a wipe-out in areas like Fife.

Stewart Hosie SNP
SNP’s Stewart Hosie (left) at the party’s manifesto launch. Image: PA

“There’s no question that over the last 18 months the SNP took a dunt. Even at the start of this campaign we were behind in the polls,” Mr Hosie said in an interview with The Courier.

“My message to people in Dundee would be keep the faith. Looking at the alternatives, Labour and Tory threatening to privatise the NHS, the pitch we’re making is a strong one for Dundee and Scotland.”

How SNP turned Dundee into a political fortress

His appeal to Dundee voters is a far cry from the last election, and reflects growing SNP fatigue among the electorate after 17 years of dominance.

But Mr Hosie is all too aware of how a party’s fortunes can change in the space of one election.

He benefitted as the City of Discovery fell out of love with Labour, eventually relegating the party to third place as many put their trust in the nationalists.

Stewart Hosie
Stewart Hosie wins the 2005 election in Dundee.

His majority of over 13,300 votes in 2019 was hard fought for and far from re-assured in the early days of his career — contesting four elections before securing a narrow majority of 383 votes in 2005.

His victory then marked a dramatic shift in Dundee politics.

Mr Hosie said: “It is a huge change. Of course, it isn’t to do with me. It’s not even to do with the last 20 years.

“There’s been teams of people in Dundee in the SNP over many decades who put in the hard yards. It is a process that has taken a very long time.”

Campaigning with Angus MacNeil in the early days. Image: PA

The SNP veteran, who attended Carnoustie High School, hopes the party nationally will draw lessons from those hard-won victories in Dundee.

He added: “What it demonstrates is if you’ve got enough commitment, if you’re properly organised and have confidence in the arguments you’re making, then things can change.”

Mr Hosie said the change in Dundee politics should show the SNP can win with commitment. Image: DC Thomson

The SNP veteran, first elected in 2005, announced in June last year that he would be standing down.

Explaining his decision to retire as an MP, Mr Hosie told The Courier: “There’s lots of reasons. It’s been 19 years. That’s a long time to be going up and down to London.

“I’m in my 60s now, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to get to the end of the next parliament in my late 60s and have to get up at 4.30am every Monday morning.

‘It’s time for fresh blood’

“It’s time for fresh blood to come in and contest that seat. But one thing I will say – I might be leaving elected politics but I’m not leaving politics and I’m not giving up on the fight for independence.”

Appointed by Humza Yousaf, the SNP campaign chief role is one Mr Hosie has taken on with a passion since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the election, and supporters say he seems “reinvigorated” by the challenge.

Friends say the campaign chief role has “reinvigorated” Mr Hosie. Image: Kris Miller/DC Thomson

Fall from grace

His appointment as campaign director is not the first leadership role Mr Hosie has held in the SNP.

In 2014, after Nicola Sturgeon succeeded Alex Salmond as first minister and party leader, Mr Hosie launched a successful bid to become her deputy.

But he will be hoping he ends this job more successfully than his last stint at the top of the party.

In 2016, just two years into the role, he stood down after newspapers revealed he was having an affair with journalist Serena Cowdy.

Nicola Sturgeon and Shona Robison have long been close friends. Image: PA

The exposure of the relationship led to the break-up of Mr Hosie’s two-decade long marriage to fellow SNP politician Shona Robison and prompted rifts inside the party locally and nationally.

Ms Sturgeon, who had been close friends with Ms Robison since the pair attended university together, was privately furious at the betrayal and was seen consoling her tearful colleague in Holyrood.

Whatever the result for the SNP after voters have their say, Mr Hosie has ruled out a Holyrood comeback in 2026.

He said: “When I get finished in the early hours of July 5, I’ll take a deep breath.

“I will wait and see what comes up, but my involvement in the SNP and the independence campaign will not stop.”

LISTEN: Keep up to date with our Scottish politics podcast The Stooshie for all the latest analysis and news through the election