FORMER justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has been selected as the SNP ’s candidate to stand in East Lothian at the next General Election, The National understands.

The move marks a dramatic return to frontline politics for the party veteran who stepped down as an MSP three years ago to forge a career in writing and commentary.

It is understood MacAskill saw off competition from former Edinburgh West MP Michelle Thomson and activists DJ Johnston-Smith and Lee-Anne Menzies to win the party’s nomination.

East Lothian is currently held by Labour’s Martin Whitfield, who took the seat with a 3083 vote majority from the SNP’s George Kerevan in the 2017 snap poll.

The National: East Lothian incumbent Martin WhitfieldEast Lothian incumbent Martin Whitfield

READ MORE: MacAskill's dramatic return to frontline politics in SNP MP bid

MacAskill took part in the All Under One Banner march in Edinburgh last weekend and later wrote that the event helped “boost morale and signifies a change in tempo”.

“Of course, there’s still a Section 30 Order to be obtained from the UK Government and large numbers don’t always equate with victory,” he wrote in the Scotsman.

“But it boosts morale and signifies a change in tempo. No wonder the opposition are taking note, as decades ago the march towards devolution became unstoppable.”

MacAskill was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 as a list MSP representing the Lothians, before winning the constituency seat of Edinburgh East and Musselburgh in 2007 and then Edinburgh Eastern in 2011. He stepped down from his role as justice secretary in 2014.

His nomination was backed by Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s justice and home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster. Ahead of the selection ballot opening earlier this month, she said: “Kenny’s experience in campaigning and in government would be an invaluable asset to our Westminster group.”

The National: Joanna Cherry has endorsed MacAskill's nominationJoanna Cherry has endorsed MacAskill's nomination

READ MORE: Andrew Tickell: Kenny MacAskill joins SNP's election musical chairs

A General Election is expected over the coming months as Boris Johnson struggles to get his policies through Parliament following the loss of his majority, even with the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs.

Polls have suggested the SNP could be on course to win back as many as 15 of the 21 seats lost in 2017, giving the party 50 MPs and putting them in a strong position to potentially prop up a Labour government in return for getting powers to hold an independence referendum.

Other SNP candidates who have been selected include Alyn Smith, the MEP, who will stand in Stirling against Tory MP Stephen Kerr; Fergus Mutch, the party’s head of communications, who has been selected in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine to take on Tory MP Andrew Bowie, and Stephen Flynn, selected for Aberdeen South to fight Tory MP Ross Thomson.