By-election victories for Labour last night - in two former Tory seats in England - have put a spring in the step of Sir Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar as the three day Scottish Labour conference gets underway in Glasgow.

Massive swings saw Labour overturned majorities of 11,220 and 18,540 in Kingswood and Wellingborough , delivering the government’s ninth and tenth by-election defeats of the current Parliament and secure its second largest swing from the Conservatives ever.

Labour in Scotland is still enjoying the afterglow of its by-election victory in Rutherglen and Hamilton West with the result seen as a sign the party's fortunes are turning around ahead of a general election expected later this year.

Support for Labour in Scotland collapsed in 2015 when it was left with a single MP, Ian Murray, who represents Edinburgh South. Mr Murray remained the party's only MP north of the border after the 2019 Westminster election following a brief but modest recovery in the 2017 poll when it won a total of seven seats.

He was joined by a second Scottish Labour MP Michael Shanks, following the Rutherglen and Hamilton West triumph on October 5.

At the UK Labour conference a few days after the by-election Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar declared that "no SNP MP" would be safe (the party currently has 43) while his deputy Dame Jackie Baillie told a fringe meeting Labour had 28 target seats north of the border.

So who are the Scottish Labour hopefuls standing at the next general election?

The Herald has compiled short profiles of 20 Labour candidates standing in key target seats in Scotland, publishing the first ten today and the second tomorrow. We have ordered the list from the smallest to the largest swing needed for the seat to change hands. The seats listed below were all taken by the SNP in the 2019 election. The Herald has given the new names of the constituencies after a Boundary Commission review this year.

1. Wilma Brown, Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy.

Wilma Brown is a former theatre and anaesthetic nurse.  She's a Unison activist - and currently holds the position of chair, Unison  Scottish health committee. She also sits on Unison's UK health service group working at UK level in developing policy, terms and conditions for staff and issues relating to devolution in a partnership arrangement with NHS employers and government. She was an employee director of NHS Fife from 2009 until she recently stood down. Ms Brown helped roll out the Covid vaccine programme in her health board area. Ms Brown served as a board member and chair at The Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy and has been involved in the setting up of The Big Hoose Project which repurposes surplus goods to families affected by the cost of living crisis.

The Herald: Scottish Labour candidate Wilma Brown.

2. Douglas Alexander, Lothian East.

The former Labour cabinet minister was first elected as an MP in the Paisley South by-election in 1997 and quickly rose through the ranks in the party and in government. During his career, he served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Scottish secretary, transport secretary and international development secretary in the cabinet under Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The Herald: Douglas Alexander lost his seat of Paisley and South Renfrewshire to the SNP's Mhairi Black in 2015, but is hoping to return to Westminster as the MP for Lothian East.

He subsequently served in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet as shadow secretary of state for work and pensions and shadow foreign secretary. Mr Alexander dramatically lost his seat of Paisley and Renfrewshire South to the SNP'a Mhairi Black, who is standing down at the general election.

3. Maureen Burke, Glasgow north east

Maureen Burke grew up in Easterhouse and has been a Glasgow city councillor since 2012. Ahead of the 2022 local government elections, she pledged to fight for Glasgow to get a better budget settlement from the Scottish Government. Mrs Burke helped residents set up a committee to clean up their community during the pandemic and has joined in the clean-ups.

In an interview back then, she said: “Growing up in Easterhouse with my three sisters and brother was difficult at times. Both mum and dad had TB and had long spells of unemployment, which made life financially difficult for them. So leaving school at 16 was not a choice – it was a must to help with the finances to support my family.

“I started work in Gelfers tie factory in Bridgeton in 1974 then at the age of 39 I enrolled on a computing course at John Wheatley College in East Easterhouse. This led me into a new line of work in an office based environment.”

4. Frank McNally, Coatbridge and Bellshill

Mr McNally has served as a councillor on North Lanarkshire council since 2012, representing the Mossend and Holytown ward.

He was among senior figures in the local party who earlier this month wrote to the Labour council leader Jim Logue to protest over plans to close 39 swimming pools, sports centres, libraries and other community services to plug a budget shortfall. The Aquatec in Motherwell, Sir Matt Busby Sports Centre in Bellshill, John Smith pool in Airdrie and Shotts Leisure Centre were among those earmarked for closure. Seven libraries, 20 community centres, two golf courses and Airdrie's @home youth centre also faced the axe. Amid the backlash, the closure plans were dropped.

5. Kirsty McNeill, Midlothian

Kirsty McNeill is executive director of Save the Children, one of the world’s biggest children's charities supporting families in Scotland and across the UK.

The Herald: Kirsty McNeillScottish Labour candidate Kirsty McNeill.

She was an advisor in Downing Street to Gordon Brown during the financial crisis of 2008. She is currently the chair of the advisory board for Our Scottish Future and volunteers on a number of boards including the IPPR and the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

6. Kenneth Stevenson, Airdrie and Shotts

Kenneth Stevenson has served as a councillor on North Lanarkshire council since 2017, representing Fortissat ward.

He stood in the Airdrie and Shotts by-election in 2021 after the sitting SNP MP Neil Gray stood down from Westminster to stand for election to Holyrood. Mr Stevenson was defeated in the by-election by the SNP's Anum Qaisar-Javid by 10,129 to 8,372 votes.

7. Dr Zubir Ahmed, Glasgow South West

Dr Zubir Ahmed is a transplant and vascular surgeon in Glasgow. He has told how his father arrived in Scotland in 1963 from Pakistan for work and at 85 years old is still a taxi driver in the city. The 42-year-old doctor grew up in a tenement in Govanhill and is the eldest of five children.

The Herald: Scottish Labour candidate Dr Zubir Ahmed

He has described how he could barely speak English when he started primary school but later won a scholarship to Hutchesons’ Grammar school, the private secondary on the city’s south side where both Labour leader Anas Sarwar and First Minister Humza Yousaf were pupils.  Speaking to the Sunday Mail last weekend, he said: “It was an interesting time to grow up in Govanhill. We were one of the only Asian families on my street. I can remember our windows got tanned seven times in a month one July."

8. Pamela Nash, Motherwell, Wishaw and Carluke.

Pamela Nash was the MP for Airdrie and Shotts between 2010 and 2015 during which time she was the "baby of the House" - the youngest MP in the Commons. She lost her seat to the SNP's Neil Gray, now economy secretary in the Scottish Government. Born in Airdrie, Ms Nash, 39, is currently a prominent public figure as the Chief Executive of Scotland in Union, a campaign group launched in March 2015 to help keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.

9. John Grady, Glasgow East

John Grady is a partner at the law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn advising a range of clients, principally in the energy sector. In an article for the Law Society website in 2021 the father of two told of his decision to work part time and why more flexible working signalled a positive cultural change in the legal profession.

"Like any lawyer in private practice, my working hours are not entirely predictable. However, as my two children Anna and George, go to the local primary school, I have worked part time for many years, with Mondays as my “non work day”. Indeed, I may have been our firm’s first part-time male partner. Now we have several. It wasn’t like this when I started as a trainee – this is an incredibly positive culture change in the legal profession," he noted.

"Much as I love working at Shepherd and Wedderburn, Anna and George mean the world to me, and it’s important to me that all of our people likewise spend quality time with their families."

10. Martin Rhodes, Glasgow North

Martin Rhodes formerly served on Glasgow City Council, representing Partick East/Kelvindale ward.

According to the Scottish Labour website, Mr Rhodes was elected an honorary president of LGBT+ Labour Scotland in February 2020.

He was previously an Executive Member in the previous Labour administration and was a champion for the LGBT+ community within Scotland’s largest local authority.

Read the remaining list of top 20 Scottish Labour candidates in The Herald online tomorrow.