Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 13:42 UK

Labour leader nominations close

Andy Kerr, Cathy Jamieson and Iain Gray
Andy Kerr, Cathy Jamieson and Iain Gray are the three candidates

Three candidates will battle to become the next Scottish Labour leader, it has been confirmed.

The contest will be between former health minister Andy Kerr, former deputy leader Cathy Jamieson and finance spokesman Iain Gray.

Launching his campaign in Glasgow ahead of nominations closing on Friday, Mr Kerr said he did not rule out an independence referendum.

Bill Butler and Johann Lamont are the candidates for deputy leader.

Scottish Labour's general secretary, Colin Smyth, said the leadership contenders were "very strong candidates".

He added: "This process will involve more party members than ever before and we have ensured that we have maximum debate within the party."

Secured support

The contest followed the resignation of Wendy Alexander in a row over donations to her own leadership campaign last year.

Launching his campaign, Mr Kerr set out plans for 360m investment to provide 800 hours of free nursery care for youngsters.

He has secured the support of Duncan McNeil, Labour's group convener at Holyrood, as well as party justice spokeswoman Pauline McNeill, former health minister Frank McAveety and one-time leadership hopeful Ken Macintosh.

Ms Jamieson called for a "substantial expansion" in student bursaries as she met school pupils at Strathclyde University on Friday.

She has the support of former Scottish communities minister Malcolm Chisholm and ex-culture minister Patricia Ferguson.

'Powerful mandate'

Mr Gray launched his campaign on Thursday, claiming that the new Scottish Labour leader would have a "powerful mandate".

It has emerged that Mr Gray has the backing of Cathcart MSP Charlie Gordon, who pulled out of the contest after failing to secure the six nominations required to stand.

Mr Gray also has the backing of Glasgow Baillieston MSP Margaret Curran, senior backbencher George Foulkes and former Scottish environment minister Sarah Boyack.

The new leader will be announced on 13 September.


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