[What follows is excerpted from a report in today’s edition of The National:]
Kenny MacAskill – one of the leading figures in the SNP for the past three decades – is to stand down at the Holyrood election next May.
The former Justice Secretary was replaced by Michael Matheson in Nicola Sturgeon’s new administration, following the independence referendum last September.
He was first elected to the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh in 1999 and held on to the seat at subsequent elections through boundary changes.
A former solicitor, MacAskill said he had to fight for 25 years before he was elected during a period when the SNP was regarded as a minority party and struggled to have a public profile.
But forming the first SNP Government in 2007, Alex Salmond appointed MacAskill to the key Cabinet post and he became the longest serving Justice Secretary since devolution.
Last night MacAskill wrote to his Edinburgh Eastern constituency members to tell them he will not be seeking nomination again and will be drawing a line under his career in frontline politics. (...)
MacAskill’s most controversial decision as Justice Secretary was the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, from Greenock Prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds after he had been diagnosed with cancer. He died in Tripoli protesting his innocence in 2012. “It was the decision with the most pressures internationally, but we followed the laws and guidance and we ignored the external pressures to change,” he said. “The pressures went with the job but I had a great team around me in the justice department, the police and the prison service and for that I am humble. I stand by the decision now, as I did then.”