THE battle to become Labour's candidate in Central Ayrshire at the next UK general election will be a three-way contest.

Irvine councillor Nairn McDonald one of three vying for the candidacy, with an online hustings and vote by constituency members set to take place on Thursday, December 14.

Former diplomat Alan Gemmell and Irvine West councillor Louise McPhater are also in the running.

Councillor McDonald stood for the Ayrshire Central constituency at the 2017 election, while Louise stood for Labour in the same seat in 2019. 

On both occasions, the seat was retained by the SNP's Dr Philippa Whitford.

Cllr McDonald, who has represented Irvine East since last year and is a former member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, has been backed by Unison and the Communication Workers Union in his bid.

He said: "I never really intended to stand for the seat again, then the Liz Truss budget happened.

"Sitting on the council I have been banging my head against the wall at times thanks to motions being voted down by the SNP and the Tories. I thought 'imagine how the community feels?'.

"My grandfather spent his working life in the Ailsa shipyard and we were brought up on stories of him rallying workers there. He once confronted Margaret Thatcher when she visited and she ran out rather than face him.

"It will be a tough fight. Alan has come from a different angle and Louise is an incredibly well known and respected local councillor.

"This seat is definitely considered winnable by Labour now. I am very pleased to have received support from the CWU and Unison, as well as local councillors and MSPs."

The Ayrshire Central constituency covers Irvine and parts of Kilwinning, as well as Troon, Prestwick, Annbank, Mossblown, Tarbolton, Loans, Dundonald and Symington.

Dr Whitford, who won the seat for the SNP from long-serving Labour MP Brian Donohoe in 2015, is standing down at the next election.

The SNP have already selected Troon's Annie McIndoe as their candidate for the next election, which has to be held before the end of January 2025.

Meanwhile, David Rocks has announced that he will be the Conservatives' candidate in the same seat.

Mr Rocks, who is also from Irvine, stood in North Ayrshire and Arran at the Westminster elections in both 2017 and 2019, and in the Cunninghame South seat for the Scottish Parliament in 2021 - with Cllr McPhater among his rivals in the latter.

Most pundits believe the big vote will be held next year.