VETTING for candidates hoping to replace Margaret Ferrier in an expected by-election is nearing a close, the SNP have said.

Three people are said to be in consideration by the SNP, a person familiar with the matter told The National, and the party has confirmed members of the local branch will vote on who will stand “in the coming days”.

It is understood the party’s candidate assessment committee, part of the SNP’s mammoth ruling body the National Executive Committee (NEC), are assisting in the vetting process, which includes interviewing would-be candidates.

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Whoever is selected will run against Labour’s Michael Shanks, who party spinners shielded from the media when he was unveiled as their candidate – despite his considerable experience speaking with both the press and broadcasters.

Labour’s selection process was marred by allegations of a stitch-up – with local politicians in South Lanarkshire claiming Shanks had been picked by party mandarins as their preferred candidate.

If a by-election goes ahead, it is one Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar cannot afford to lose if he has any hope of bringing his party back to first or second place in Holyrood.

It is not known who will stand against Shanks in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.

An SNP source insisted the contest was winnable for the party – but said the election would be an opportunity for a candidate to build up a profile, even if they do not succeed. This could lead to holding elected office further down the line, even if they were unsuccessful this time around.

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A recall petition can be launched once Ferrier is officially suspended from the Commons. Her appeal against the sanction was rejected by the standards watchdog earlier this month – but MPs still have to vote to boot her from the house. A date for the vote has not been set.

An SNP spokesperson said: “There’s a number of names and there’ll be a ballot of all members in the constituency to choose the candidate in the coming days.”