Mike Russell, the SNP’s Cabinet Secretary for Business and Constitutional Relations, has said he will not stand in the Holyrood election next year. Mr Russell has been a key figure in Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet and in 2016 was appointed to lead negotiations with the Westminster Government on Brexit. In a statement announcing his decision, the 66-year-old MSP for Argyll and Bute said he will be 72-years-old at the end of the next parliament and needed someone younger in the role.
He said: “I have been the MSP for Argyll and Bute since 2011 and it has been an enormous privilege as well as a greatly enjoyable task.
“However I will be 67 this summer and 72 at the end of the next Parliament.
“Argyll and 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.”
Mr Russell has been a SNP activist since 1961 and served in a number of ministerial positions.
The veteran SNP MSP was appointed Chief Executive of the Scottish National Party in 1994.
When the SNP entered Government in 2007 he was appointed Minister for Environment and then Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution.
In December 2009 he became Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.
In his statement, Mr Russell took a final swipe at the UK Government for taking Scotland out of the European Union.
Mr Russels said it has been “distressing” to see Scotland leave the bloc against its will.
However, the life-long SNP supporter insisted he is sure the people of Scotland will be able to overturn the decision to leave the bloc.
He said: “Of course, my biggest challenges have been those I have faced since August 2016 when I was tasked by the First Minister with attempting to secure Scotland’s place in Europe and to make Scotland’s voice heard in Whitehall.
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Mr Russell also stated Scotland’s desire to break-up the UK and become an independent nation was “closer” now than at any time in the past 46 years.
He 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.”