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Minister to leave Holyrood

Russell to quit parliament, but continue indy crusade

Michael Russell

Michael Russell addressing the SNP Spring conference last year (pic: Terry Murden)

Constitution and Europe Secretary Michael Russell is quitting the Scottish parliament.

Mr Russell, 66, will not stand in the May 2021 Scottish elections, but he intends to remain active in politics, indicating that he will continue to campaign for Scottish independence.

Former Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has also announced he will not be seeking re-election.

Mr Russell said: “After next May I still intend to be active in the political sphere. I think of my decision as stepping back from some current roles, not stepping away from my commitment to our country and the better future it can have and should choose.

“Independence is so much closer than it was when I first voted for the SNP 46 years ago. I hope I have contributed something to that success and I still hope to contribute more but in a different way and role.”

Mr Russell has been an MSP for a decade and was previously a regional member for the South of Scotland from 1999-2003 and 2007-2011. But he said he will be 72 at the end of the next Parliament.

“Argyll & Bute is a massive area to cover – with 23 inhabited islands and a large swathe of the mainland – and I am getting to the stage of thinking that someone younger would be better able to fulfil all the demands of the constituency. It is, I think, much better I say that now than wait for someone else to do so.

“Of course, my biggest challenges have been those I have faced since August 2016 when I was tasked by the First Minster with attempting to secure Scotland’s place in Europe and to make Scotland’s voice heard in Whitehall.

“There is no doubt that we are now faced with the most hostile, arrogant, heedless and thoughtless UK Government in many generations, which is determined to have its own way no matter what the people of Scotland want or vote for.

“It has been particularly distressing to have to see Scotland dragged out of Europe against our will by them – though that is something I am sure we can reverse before too long.

Mr Russell, whose son, Cailean (Cally) is founder and chief executive of the shopping app Mallzee, is the author of seven books and has been a TV producer and director. He was the founder and first director of the Celtic Media Festival which will hold its 41st event in Brittany later this year.

A member of the Labour Club at Edinburgh University, he joined the SNP just after the February 1974 election. He became the party’s first full-time chief executive in December 1994.

After 20 years at Holyrood Stewart Stevenson will stand down as MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast. He served in the Scottish Government as Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change and Minister for Environment and Climate Change, taking through Scotland’s world-leading Climate Change Act in 2009.

“After joining the SNP in 1961 and being elected in 2001 it has been my honour and privilege to serve the people of Banffshire and Buchan Coast as their MSP for the last 20 years,” he said.

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