THE first shots in Labour's potentially bloody battle to select candidates for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections have been fired, with the suitability of two ex-MSPs shortlisted to stand again publicly slated.

In the first known short list, Bill Butler and Des McNulty, who were ousted in Labour's dramatic 2011 Holyrood defeat, will battle it out for either the Anniesland or Clydebank and Milngavie seat.

Due to Labour's new strategy of 'twinning' constituencies, with a male and female candidate, accidental backbench MSP and ex-Glasgow councillor Anne McTaggart is expected to run for one of the constituencies.

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The fall-out has also seen the re-emergence of ex-city council leader Steven Purcell, who quit almost exactly four years ago due to drugs, alcohol and stress.

A defeated candidate, journalist and ex-Labour spin doctor Andrew McFadyen, who had been promoted locally along with Mrs McTaggart by Mr Purcell, launched an attack on Mr Butler and Mr McNulty.

On his Facebook page Mr McFadyen said: "The best people to take the Labour Party forward at the next election are not those who lost the last one."

He said he would be supporting the leader of West Dunbartonshire Council Martin Rooney. Also standing is West Dunbartonshire councillor Gail Casey.

A Labour source said: "Would Andy McFadyen have been selected if he hadn't been associated with Purcell? Maybe not but I can't say it helped. It'll also be a reality check for Purcell's attempts at a new role in politics."

But a source close to Mr McFadyen said: "It was an old fashioned stitch-up."