LEFT-WINGER Neil Findlay today emerged the big winner as Labour announced the results of its internal contest to decide the top places on the Lothian list for the Holyrood elections.
With polls predicting the party will lose all its constituency seats across Scotland, the regional list rankings are set to become the crucial decider of who gets elected as MSPs.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale had already been given automatic top slot in Lothian, but Mr Findlay – who was third on the list last time – emerged with the most votes among the other 11 would-be candidates.
He will now be the second name on the ballot paper after Ms Dugdale, pushing fellow MSP Sarah Boyack – who was number one last time – into third slot. Fourth place went to Edinburgh Southern candidate Daniel Johnson, seen as a rising star in the party.
In 2003, Labour had three MSPs elected from the Lothian list in addition to Edinburgh Northern & Leith MSP Malcolm Chisholm, who is standing down this time. But some polls suggest the party could now be reduced to just two seats in Lothian.
Mr Findlay, who spearheaded Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign in Scotland, stood against Jim Murphy for the Scottish leadership in 2014.
Elsewhere, former deputy Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar heads the Glasgow list with ex-leader Johann Lamont in second slot, followed by MSP James Kelly and former MSP Pauline McNeill.
The lists across all eight regions have been “zipped” to ensure alternate male and female candidates, providing a gender balance.
And Labour had sought new faces to add to the pool of existing MSPs.
Frontbencher Jackie Baillie is top of the West of Scotland list followed by fellow sitting MSPs Neil Bibby, Mary Fee and Ken Macintosh.
Deputy leader Alex Rowley automatically tops the Mid-Scotland and Fife list, but the next three places went to MSP Claire Baker, former MP Thomas Docherty and MSP Cara Hilton.
Existing MSPs Jenny Marra, Lewis Macdonald and Lesley Brennan take the top three slots in North-East Scotland.
But trade unionist Richard Leonard and rising star Monica Lennon are top in Central region, followed by sitting MSPs Mark Griffin and Elaine Smith.
Existing MSPs Rhoda Grant and David Stewart take the top slots in Highlands and Islands.
Several current MSPs, including Michael McMahon, Siobhan McMahon, Paul Martin, Hanzala Malik and Anne McTaggart find themselves languishing towards the bottom of the lists.
Ms Dugdale said the successful candidates provided a welcome balance between new blood and experience.
She said: “At the start of this process I said I wanted to encourage as many people as possible to join our movement so we can change our country.
“I am absolutely delighted with the talented group of people who have been selected as Scottish Labour candidates.
“From experienced MSPs to new young candidates, from former teachers to trade union officials, and from small business owners to charity workers – this is an impressive list of candidates. Every candidate on the list and in constituencies across the country will be fighting for every single vote.
“We are in no doubt about the scale of the challenge we face, but Scottish Labour heads into the election in May full of confidence in our vision for Scotland.”