Whitefield chosen for Falkirk tilt
Labour former MSP Karen Whitefield has been selected as the party's 2015 general election candidate in Falkirk, the constituency which has been at the centre of multiple controversies.
She fought off the challenge of Pam Duncan and Monica Lennon to win the backing of local members as the replacement for disgraced MP Eric Joyce.
Mr Joyce was kicked out of the party after committing an assault in a House of Commons bar, and now represents the constituency as an independent.
His ejection sparked a controversial selection process which became mired in allegations of vote-rigging, igniting a chain of events that ultimately brought one of Scotland's key industrial complexes to the brink of closure.
Speaking after her selection, Ms Whitefield conceded that the party will have to work hard to regain people's trust following Mr Joyce's crimes and the fraught selection process to replace him.
"I am delighted and greatly honoured to have been given the opportunity to work for the Labour party and serve the people of Falkirk in the run up to the general election and I hope they will put their trust in me," she said.
"The next step is all about campaigning, getting on to the streets and into the communities and making sure that they understand what the Labour party stands for, that we care and can make a difference for them and will stand up for them.
"It's not good enough that families are working hard but that work doesn't pay, or that people have to make the choice between heating and eating, and I want to give those people a voice here in the constituency and at Westminster.
"This is the start of working hard to regain people's trust. It's time to move forward and look to the future.
"I think the party is in very good spirits tonight.
"I think this will unite us. We will look to the future, and be out there working hard to regain people's trust, which they have given to us in the past, and to earn that trust for the future."
Ms Whitefield insists that Labour can win the next general election through attacking Tory rewards for millionaires and its stance on payday lenders.
"I'll be campaigning for a fairer and more just Scotland," she said.
"I don't think it is right that we have got a Government that would rather reward millionaires than hard working families.
"I don't think it is right that we have got a Government that is more interested in protecting payday loan companies than regulating them.
"Those are the issues that I will be campaigning on, and I'm sure that the Labour Party will be campaigning with me too.
"If we campaign on those issues Labour will, and can, win the next general election.
"I'm going to be working extremely hard. Today I promised the Labour Party that if they put their trust in me that I will always put Falkirk first and that is exactly what I will try to do."
Before the general election Labour must first face the challenge of the Scottish independence referendum, which threatens to make Ms Whitefield's prospective tenure at Westminster very short.
The referendum will be held on September 18 2014, around eight months before the expected date of the next UK general election in May 2015.
If Scotland votes yes, the Scottish Government expect to secure independence by March 2016.
Ms Whitefield said: "I'm going to be using every day between now and next September to make the case for Scotland staying within the UK, because that is in the interests of Scotland.
"It is what's best for Scotland and the Labour vision for Scotland is so much better than anything that the nationalists can offer the people of Scotland."
Earlier this year, Unite was accused of signing its members up to the Falkirk Labour Party to ensure the union's favoured candidate, Karie Murphy, was selected as the next general election candidate.
The union was cleared of any wrongdoing in an internal inquiry by Labour but the local party was put under "special measures", which meant that the power to draw up the shortlist was taken away from it, and was conducted centrally.
The councillor who blew the whistle on the claims of vote-rigging was subsequently snubbed in the selection process.
Former Falkirk Council leader Linda Gow, who alerted the party to allegations against the trade union Unite, said she was "disappointed" not to be on the final shortlist.
Meanwhile, Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House is looking into separate allegations against Unite concerning alleged intimidation of senior members of Ineos staff.
The union was involved in an industrial dispute with the Grangemouth refinery, which was first sparked by the vote-rigging allegations.
Unite and site owners Ineos became embroiled in a bitter dispute, initially over the treatment of Unite convenor Stephen Deans, who was involved in the Labour selection row as chairman of the constituency party.
The dispute dramatically widened to threaten the future of the entire site, with Ineos warning that it would close without fresh investment and changes to pay, pensions and other conditions.
Unite accepted the changes, most of which are due to come into force in January, and the company has since announced up to 200 job losses in the ensuing cost-cutting drive.
Tory MP Priti Patel MP said: "Despite Ed Miliband promising to cut his links with his union paymasters, clearly nothing has changed as they parachute in another one of their chosen candidates.
"The unions continue to rig the selections, buy the policies and choose the leader and Miliband is too weak to stop them.
"If he can't stand up to the unions, he'll never be able to stand up for Britain on the world stage."