JUSTICE Secretary Michael Matheson and other ministers are to stake their political careers on first-past-the-post wins at Holyrood next year, rejecting the safety net of the list system.

In a mark of growing SNP confidence for May 2016, Matheson will not stand on the regional list for Central Scotland, and will run for re-election only in his Falkirk West constituency.

Energy minister Fergus Ewing and health minister Jamie Hepburn will also stand for the first time without back-up places in their respective Inverness and Cumbernauld seats.

They join a number of former SNP ministers now standing constituency-only, including Mike Russell in Argyll & Bute, Bruce Crawford in Stirling and Linda Fabiani in East Kilbride.

Backbenchers James Dornan and Sandra White will do likewise in their Glasgow seats.

At the 2011 election, almost every SNP minister and MSP stood on a list in case they failed to win a seat, even shoo-ins such as Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

Richard Lochhead in Moray, Shona Robison and Joe Fitzpatrick in Dundee, Alasdair Allan in Na h-Eileanan an Iar and John Mason in Glasgow Shettleston were among the very few who did not.

However the SNP’s massive poll lead, Labour disarray, and personal pride in winning first-past-the-post, mean more and more are now standing in seats alone.

Matheson told the Sunday Herald: “I’ve decided that in this election I’m going to focus on my constituency campaign. It’s a personal choice. I would expect a tough fight in Falkirk, but I’m confident we will put in the best campaign we have had to date.”

In 2011, Matheson improved his majority in Falkirk West from 776 to a comfortable 5,745.

However Labour could now ramp up their efforts to claim his scalp.

He is also likely to face criticism over his handling of Police Scotland as Justice Secretary.

White said: “The people in the area have put their faith in me and I don’t want to let them down. If they don’t vote for me, well, that’s life.”

Russell said staying off the list would “give other people a chance to come through”.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, Education Secretary Angela Constance, and Europe minister Humza Yousaf remain list candidates.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will also stand on the Glasgow list, not because she faces defeat in Glasgow Southside, but to boost name recognition on the ballot.