FORMER Scottish Government minister Stewart Maxwell will be challenging Scottish Labour leadership candidate Ken Macintosh to become the new MSP for Eastwood at next year’s Holyrood elections.

Maxwell, who is currently a list MSP for the West of Scotland and is convener of Holyrood’s education committee, was selected as the SNP candidate earlier this week. He is determined to seize the seat which Macintosh has held since 1999 and is hoping the massive swing towards the SNP in May at the General Election and rise in the number of local activists since the referendum will help give him the edge on the campaign trail.

In May, Kirsten Oswald won the parallel Westminster seat of East Renfrewshire for the SNP, defeating former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy.

“Eastwood is certainly a tough constituency to crack, but given the progress we’ve made, particularly in May, and with a lot of hard work, we will win this seat,” he said.

“We have a lot of very enthusiastic people and more finances than we’ve had before to fight this campaign.”

Maxwell added: “We can spend a budget which is appropriate to the importance of this seat. We won East Renfrewshire in May and I think it would mark a sea change if we won Eastwood next year.”

The area is one of the wealthiest constituency’s in Scotland, and covers the well-heeled neighbourhoods of Newton Mearns, Clarkston and Giffnock.

But Maxwell, who lives in the constituency, insisted the area has its share of social problems too, with food banks being set up locally to help struggling families.

“Eastwood has some neighbourhoods which are very affluent, but there are people living in the area who are much poorer,” he said.

“I am 100 per cent committed to representing the people of Eastwood. There are people here who are suffering as much as elsewhere from the dreadful policies pursued by the Tory Government.”

Macintosh is the Labour candidate for the seat, while the Tories are due to select their candidate next month.