Wendy Alexander announces plans to quit Holyrood

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Labour’s Wendy Alexander has announced her intention to quit the Scottish parliament at the next parliamentary elections in May.

The former leader of the Labour group at Holyrood made her announcement yesterday citing family reasons for the dramatic decision.

This will be the third time the outspoken Labour MSP has quit in dramatic fashion.  In May 2002 when part of Jack McConnell’s cabinet she suddenly and without warning quit her post as Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning, saying she wanted a change.

In 2008 Alexander was succeeded by Iain Gray after she resigned as Scottish Labour leader in disgrace after leaks, thought to have emanated from within her own Labour party, revealed an illegal donation had been made to her leadership campaign.

It emerged she had accepted an illegal £950 campaign donation from Jersey-based businessman Paul Green, and that this donation had then been falsely attributed to a Glasgow company, Combined Property Services.

Wendy Alexander caused outrage recently after she was accused of ‘hi-jacking’ two eminent professors who had appeared before the Scotland Bill Committee in order to present evidence on new Tory tax plans for Scotland.  However acrimonious exchanges saw Alexander and Tory David McLetchie interrogate Professors Drew Scott and Andrew Hughes-Hallett on the completely different subject of fiscal autonomy.

The decision to quit leaves the Holyrood Labour group short of female MSPs with political experience after Margaret Curran and Cathie Jamieson’s decision to abandon Holyrood in favour of Westminster.

With former leader Jack McConnell and Lord Foulkes also favouring London over the Scottish parliament, the loss of one of his most experienced backbenchers could not have come at a worse time for the beleaguered Labour leader Iain Gray.

The Paisley MSP’s decision to leave front line politics is a further blow to Mr Gray who is already under pressure amidst claims of dissent within his front line team.  Mr Gray is reeling after a dreadful week that saw his leadership and authority questioned and Labour’s secret Megrahi dealings with Libya exposed.

It also comes on top of news that his party had surrendered a ten point lead to the SNP and were now trailing the Nationalists as Scotland heads towards the May elections.

First Minister Alex Salmond described Ms Alexander as “the most intellectually substantial figure in the Parliamentary Labour Party in Scotland”.

Tavish Scott, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: “Wendy has made a significant contribution to devolution.  I worked with her as a minister and as a colleague in the Liberal Democrat-Labour coalition.  I appreciated her intellect, her energy and her commitment to Scotland.”

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said: “Wendy’s decision will leave Holyrood the poorer.

“I won’t pretend that she and I have always seen eye to eye on every issue but her enthusiasm, tenacity and intelligence are priceless assets.  In particular her steering of the Scotland Bill Committee has been a major contribution to our democratic process.”

The Labour party has said that a selection process to find a replacement for Wendy Alexander will now begin.