Holyrood minister and Green veteran quit
Gone: Joe Fitzpatrick and Andy Wightman
The Scottish parliament was struck by a double resignation today as a minister quit over the government’s failed drugs policy and a prominent Green MSP left the party.
Public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick succumbed to growing calls for him to stand down over the record drugs fatalities.
Mr Fitzpatrick announced his departure from government this evening, saying that he spoke with the First Minster “and agreed that I should leave government”. He is expected to be replaced by Angela Constance.
Earlier, Andy Wightman announced he would be leaving the Greens over what he called the “intolerance” of some members towards matters of sex and gender in the context of transgender and women’s rights.
Mr Fitzpatrick issued a statement saying it had been “the privilege of my life to serve in the Scottish Government.”
He added: “I have worked with families who have felt the burden and weight of grief from drug use. I want to thank them for their candour and the amazing efforts they make to try and make our country better and safer for all.
“As the minister responsible for this area I, ultimately, take my responsibility. It is clear that my presence as a minister will become a distraction, when we should be focused on achieving the change we need to save lives.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon aded: “I thank Joe for his work as a minister and the service he has given to Government over the last eight years, firstly as Minister for Parliamentary Business and then as Minister for Public Health.
“While the time has now come to make a change in the public health brief, no one should doubt Joe’s hard work, dedication and sincerity. He will continue to champion the interests of his constituents at Holyrood, and I wish him well in the future.”
Mr Wightman said his decision to leave followed threats of disciplinary action and even expulsion if he voted in favour of an amendment on the Victims of Sexual Offences bill.
He said the Green party has a strong commitment to equalities and trans rights, but some of the “language, approaches and postures of the party and its spokespeople have been provocative and alienating and confrontational for many women and men.”
He later said he has not ruled out standing in the Holyrood elections as an independent candidate, or for another party, though that was unlikely and he could re-join the Green party after next year’s election.