LABOUR has announced its candidate to contest the Renfrewshire North and West seat at the Scottish Parliament elections.

Johanna Baxter, who is head of local government for the Unison trade union, will be looking to turn the constituency red for the first time since it was created in 2011.

So far, it has been confirmed she will battle it out with Councillor Natalie Don, of the SNP, and Scottish Conservatives hopeful Julie Pirone.

For the past decade, the constituency has been represented in Holyrood by Derek Mackay, who was suspended by the SNP after it emerged he had hounded a 16-year-old boy with 270 online messages.

The former finance secretary has not been seen at Holyrood since the revelation but has continued to pick up his £64,470 salary.

Ms Baxter said residents have been badly let down by Mr Mackay and has vowed to “show up and speak up” for communities if she is elected.

“I am delighted to be selected as the Labour candidate for Renfrewshire North and West and I look forward to the campaign ahead,” add Ms Baxter, who is a member of the party’s national and Scottish executive committees.

“If the current pandemic has shown us anything it is that we desperately need strong voices in Holyrood – MSPs who will show up, speak up and stand up for the jobs, investment and economic recovery our communities so desperately need.

“I pledge to do just that and everything I can to ensure the voice of Renfrewshire North and West is heard in the crucial debates that lie ahead.

“At a time of national crises, when many constituents have been facing bereavements, job losses and heightened concerns for their families, it is simply unforgivable for any representative to be missing in action.”

Raised in Saltcoats, Ms Baxter has been a Labour member for 24 years and now lives in the North Ayrshire village of Skelmorlie.

Sam Mullin, constituency Labour party chair, said: “Johanna is an experienced campaigner, unafraid of hard graft and speaking truth to power.
“We’re all ready to take the fight to our opponents.”

The constituency covers Erskine, Renfrew, Bridge of Weir and Bishopton, as well as Kilmacolm and Quarrier’s Village.