More Holyrood departures
Neil calls for re-write of case for independence
Alex Neil: re-write
UPDATED 24 August: Veteran SNP MSP Alex Neil said he will not stand for election again “after much soul searching” and has called for the party to re-write its independence manifesto.
Mr Neil, the MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, said his party should contest the Holyrood 2021 elections on a “clear, unequivocal commitment” to hold a referendum on the constitution in the next parliamentary lifetime.
“The case for independence needs to be updated as the world has moved on since 2014,” he said in a statement.
“It is difficult to see how we can re-build the Scottish economy without the tools available to independent nations, including a currency and central bank.”
As one of the few senior SNP figures to back Brexit, he said: “The SNP also has to re-visit its policy for an independent Scotland to join the EU, which would lead to customs barriers between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“It would make much more sense for an independent Scotland to join EFTA, which would secure access to European markets without the downsides of EU membership.”
Mr Neil was among the parliament’s original intake, elected on Holyrood’s regional list for Central Scotland, and the following year was defeated by John Swinney in a battle to become SNP leader.
He was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure by Alex Salmond, before becoming Health Secretary and later Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights under Nicola Sturgeon.
He is the sixth senior SNP MSP to announce they are stepping down from the parliament.
Roseanna Cunningham, Environment secretary and MSP for Perth and Kinross since 1995 will not contest the election.
She pointed out that it will take place two months before her 70th birthday.
Roseanna Cunningham: ‘hard thinking’
Ms Cunningham was SNP depute leader between 2000 and 2004, and opposed Alex Salmond when he was elected party leader that year.
Constitution minister Michael Russell, who represents Argyll and Bute, confirmed in March that he would not stand in the Holyrood election next year.