West Dunbartonshire MP Douglas McAllister: "It was a lifetime ambition to be MP"

Election count at Clydebank
-Credit: (Image: Lennox Herald)

Labour’s Douglas McAllister says the hard work begins now as he promised to deliver the change the people of West Dunbartonshire want after a resounding win.

The newly elected MP swept up during a tense night at the count in Clydebank Leisure Centre after winning 19,312 votes – crushing the SNP’s 9,553 majority in 2019’s last general election.

Martin Docherty-Hughes, who had served as the area’s MP for the past nine years, came second with 13,302 votes.

The West Dunbartonshire turnout was down 10 per cent on 2019 with 57.5 per cent of the electorate using their vote.

It came as Labour won a thumping landslide majority across the UK with Keir Starmer receiving the keys to No 10 and becoming the UK’s new Prime Minister.

Douglas’ victory marks the constituency’s return to Labour representation in Westminster, with West Dunbartonshire previously a safe Labour seat for decades.

Rapturous applause filled the gym hall from Douglas’ campaign team as the results were announced just before 3am on Friday morning.

And the new MP, who is currently West Dunbartonshire Council’s Provost having served as a local councillor for 21 years, was clearly thrilled and emotional after his stunning victory, telling the Lennox becoming a member of parliament had been a “lifelong dream”.

He said: “I’m ecstatic, over the moon. I’m so pleased.

“It’s always been my lifetime ambition to represent West Dunbartonshire at Westminster level and I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to realise my dream to do that.

“I’ve had a fantastic team, just an incredible team of volunteers who have been so supportive and I’m also delighted for them.

“It’s been a long 18-month campaign. I was selected by the Labour party back in January 2023.

“We really didn’t know when the general election was going to be called so every weekend for the last 18 months has been door chapping, canvassing, to the point where I think people are fed up seeing me walking up their street!

“The mood was good. We could tell the mood was good and there was a feeling out there.

“I know we sound like a broken record saying it’s about change but people were repeating that back to us.

“They wanted a change from the two governments. Labour have been out of power in Scotland for 17 years and out of power in the UK for 14 years.

“That’s been nobody’s fault but ours – we hadn’t been good enough.

“But people liked the look of the offer we presented to them and took the view that it was the change that the country and here in West Dunbartonshire was needing.

“I’m delighted with the result but the hard work starts now.

“We’ve got to deliver on that change.

“The works starts on day one. People have put their trust in us. We cannot let them down.”

Douglas promised to work tirelessly for both those who did vote for him – and those who didn’t – adding: “I want to thank them for putting their trust in me that I can deliver the change they are looking for.

“I want to thank the people who have voted Labour and have stuck by Labour.

“I want to thank the people who have returned to us, who maybe haven’t voted Labour for almost a decade and those who have voted for the first time.

“But also those who didn’t vote for me this time. I understand that they haven’t but I want to work tirelessly for them as well.

“That’s extremely important to me.”

Douglas also paid tribute to outgoing MP Martin Docherty-Hughes for his “quite outstanding service” and said he had “served us very well”.

“I also want to thank Martin Docherty-Hughes for the service he’s given to West Dunbartonshire,” he added.

“This result is not an indication that Martin was doing his job wrong, far from it. He has served us very well.

“He is someone I hold in very high regard and tonight’s results doesn’t change that.”

Gemma Doyle was the constituency’s last Labour MP and lost her seat to Martin in 2015 in a general election which saw the party almost wiped out by the SNP in Scotland.

Douglas said he knew Labour’s time would come again.

He went on: “It’s been a long time and it’s not been easy to be someone in the Labour party over the last few years.

“But we knew our time would come again.

“We were caught in the middle of that constitutional divide.

“It was never really our argument and the two sides benefitted from it, but I think people now just want to move on from that and tackle the immediate problems of the country and that’s really what Labour was presenting in relation to the NHS, the cost-of-living crisis, increasing jobs, increasing people’s wages.

“That was people’s concerns.”

Douglas McAllister Labour MP for West Dunbartonshire
Douglas spoke of his pride at becoming an MP. -Credit:Lennox Herald

Douglas told how the NHS was the biggest issue he was hearing from local constituents and he pledged that fixing waiting lists was a priority.

He explained: “The biggest issue, bar none from all generations, was the NHS, both here in Scotland and across the UK.

“We’ve heard the statistics about one in six Scots people on a hospital waiting list and people unable to get a GP appointment and residents of West Dunbartonshire, either themselves or their families, have told us they been affected by that.

“Apparently, 40 per cent of people in Scotland this year have gone privately to get regular surgery, such as a hip or knee replacement.

“Forty per cent of people in Scotland cannot afford to go private.

“They’re either using their life savings, borrowing or asking family. That cannot continue.

“It is our priority. We did it the last time we won power in 1997.

“Hospital waiting lists were through the roof.

“We delivered and brought them down. We will do it again.

“I’ve no doubt of the scale of the challenge though.

“This is a bigger challenge than it was in 1997.

“It’s not going to be an overnight fix.”

As well as a West Dunbartonshire councillor for the Kilpatrick ward, Douglas is also a full-time lawyer and told how his dream to be an MP saw him take up a law degree.

He said: “I work full-time as a lawyer and looking back, when I was growing up I always wanted to be a member of parliament and I thought studying law at Glasgow University was the quickest way to doing that because my heroes were Donald Dewar and John Smith, people who studied law at Glasgow Uni so I thought ‘well that’s what I’ll do’.

“I’ll be a lawyer for a year or two and then perhaps move into politics.

“Well I’m 50 now and I’ve been a lawyer for 26 years.

“I’ve been a councillor for 21 years. I love being a councillor for the Kilpatrick ward but I now have to take that bigger step.”

Douglas said he was planning to catch up on some gardening and spend some time with his wife and two sons before his first trip to Westminster this week, which will see members officially sworn in.

Martin Docherty-Hughes and Douglas McAllister
There was a great deal of mutual respect between McAllister and Docherty-Hughes. -Credit:Lennox Herald

Martin: "It was the honour of my life"

Outgoing West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes , pictured inset, says it was “honour of his life” to represent the area at Westminster.

SNP member, and Clydebank native, Martin lost his seat after nine years on a tough night for the party - with his share of the vote dropping by more than 16 per cent.

Speaking afterwards, Martin said: “Unlike my predecessor (Labour’s Gemma Doyle) I want to congratulate my successor and wish them every success as they represent this constituency.

“I had the great privilege of being the first ever person from my hometown to ever do that and it was the honour of my life.

“This result shows that people on these islands are deeply, deeply worried about the possibility of a continuing Conservative and Unionist government. And one can understand why people have decided that’s a position we want to take.”

Martin insists that the result shouldn’t end hopes of a referendum on Scottish independence any time soon, despite losing his seat in an area that voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the UK a decade ago.

He continued: “We certainly aren’t back in the position of the 1970s. We had a substantial part of the vote here in West Dunbartonshire and I, along with so many other members of the SNP and the Yes movement, will campaign to ensure that independence remains on the cards.”

He added that he was proud of what he had achieved across nine years on the green benches - during a period in history that brought the UK’s departure from the European Union, the Covid-19 pandemic - and five Conservative Prime Ministers.

“To my dying day I’ll go to my grave and know that I represented so many people as an MP who vocalised our fears on Brexit, Liz Truss’ stupidity and the horrors of Boris Johnson. I’m proud of representing them for nine years.”

And Docherty-Hughes had a simple piece of advice for his successor.

He added: “My advice to Douglas is to always put your family first. Westminster might sound nice, with everything that goes with it, but when you get home be with your family as much as you can.

“That’ll keep your feet on the ground, because they’ll keep them on the ground for you.”

David Smith Reform candidate for West Dunbartonshire 2024 General Election
Reform candidate David Smith secured a third place finish in his first campaign. -Credit:Lennox Herald

Reform UK surge into third place

The performance of Reform UK was one of the biggest surprises of the night, with the party storming to a commanding third place finish.

Nigel Farage’s party, standing for the first time in West Dunbartonshire, secured seven per cent of the vote share - and almost double the Conservative vote.

And candidate David Smith said his party now had high hopes of securing their first elected representatives in Scotland at the 2026 Holyrood election.

David told the Lennox: “The picture was very positive. Within Scotland it’s a springboard for the 2026 Scottish Parliament elections.

“We’re gathering momentum, finding our base and our supporters and looking at taking that into 2026 - developing strong policies to take forward.

“The reception that we’ve received on the doorstep, for me personally, has been overwhelming. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve not done this before and I was a bit nervous. But the support has been amazing.

“Everyone talks about Reform stealing votes from Conservative candidates. However we’ve taken votes from Labour candidates and from SNP candidates.”

And David believes the party have the chance of a strong showing at the next Holyrood vote.

He added: “We only have 96 weeks to the Scottish Parliamentary Elections where all the issues that impact greatest upon our daily life can be addressed.

“Potentially I would like to stand. But if a better candidate comes along I’ll happily step aside.

“But we will build upon these gains.”