THE SNP politician Kenny MacAskill, who as Justice Secretary freed the Lockerbie bomber, has announced he will stand down as an MSP at next year’s Holyrood election.
The member for Edinburgh Eastern said he will leave the Scottish Parliament to “pursue new challenges”, but added he would remain committed to the independence campaign.
MacAskill, 57, was succeeded by Michael Matheson as Justice Secretary in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s new administration after seven-and-a-half years in the role.
During that time he made the controversial decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, on compassionate grounds.
He wrote to constituency members today to tell them of his decision to step down in May 2016, the National reported.
The former solicitor told the newspaper: “I’m proud of the commitment and efforts I made, but it will now be up to others to take things forward. I am not leaving parliament to retire, but am leaving to pursue what might be considered a third career.
“Independence for Scotland will remain dear to my heart and I will be committed to it.”
Sturgeon said: “Kenny MacAskill has made an outstanding contribution to Scottish politics over many years. He will be a big loss to the Scottish Parliament next year.”
MacAskill’s role in the decision to free Megrahi made him one of the most controversial figures at Holyrood.
He was also criticised for his proposal to scrap corroboration, a keystone of Scots Law that requires two sources of evidence to secure a conviction.
MacAskill had argued that abolishing corroboration would mean that fewer perpetrators of sex crimes would escape justice. However, his proposal was abandoned earlier this year.
As one of the most prominent SNP politicians, MacAskill was credited with playing a key role in the party reversing its historic objection to Nato membership. His barnstorming speech was one of the highlights of the SNP conference debate which saw the party vote narrowly to accept that an independent Scotland should join Nato.
More recently, he courted controversy when he admitted he supported a “wrong” decision to oppose prisoners’ voting rights to “avoid any needless distractions in the run-up to the referendum”, adding that Holyrood must now support votes for prisoners to oppose Tory plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.