The Tories have picked their candidate for the battle to be Irvine’s next MP.

Ayr United goalkeeping coach and lawyer Derek Stillie is to contest the Central Ayrshire constituency for the Scottish Conservative and Unionists in the general election on December 12.

He will contest the seat against SNP candidate Dr Philippa Whitford and Labour candidate Louise McPhater.

A former professional footballer, playing in goals for a number of clubs, including Aberdeen, Dunfermline Athletic and Dundee United, Derek is a qualified lawyer who is now a director with a solicitors firm in Ayr.

At the last general election, Dr Whitford reclaimed Central Ayrshire for the SNP with 16,771 votes, with the Scottish Conservatives closely behind on 15,504.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats came in third and fourth place.

Speaking after his selection, Derek said: “It is a great honour to have been selected to contest Central Ayrshire for the Scottish Conservatives and to have the opportunity to seek to represent my home constituency as a Member of Parliament.

“If, with the support of local people, I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will be a strong voice for the people of Central Ayrshire and will work hard to deal with the issues most important to local communities.

“In particular, I want to help increase the number of good, well-paid jobs locally and see the recently agreed Ayrshire Growth Deal as being the main vehicle for driving that ambition forward. The Deal will see significant investment in a number of important local assets, including the Aerospace Campus at Prestwick and the 3i Life Sciences Park at Irvine, and as the MP for Central Ayrshire I would play a positive and energetic role in taking the Growth Deal and its projects forward.

“It’s clear from the result of the last election that Central Ayrshire is a straight contest between the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives, with Labour and the Lib Dems too weak to win here.

“So I’m urging everyone locally who wants to beat the SNP, and who wants to stop Scotland from having to go through another divisive independence referendum, to this time vote Scottish Conservative and Unionist.”