Transport minister quits over snow chaos

Scotland's transport minister has quit after strong criticism of his handling of the travel chaos caused by the winter weather.

Stewart Stevenson left the role today after admitting he should have done more to help those affected by extreme conditions over the past 10 days.

In a letter to First Minister Alex Salmond, he said: "Although we put in place significant efforts to tackle the event, I feel that I could have done much more to ensure that members of the public who were caught up in a difficult and frightening set of circumstances were better informed of the situation.

"I deeply regret that and for that reason I feel I should step down."

A significant stretch of the M8 was closed during the week, whilst hundreds spent the night in their vehicles, leading to calls for Mr Stevenson to go.

Rail journeys were also severely disrupted by the freezing weather.

The transport minister was facing a vote of no confidence in parliament next week after opposition MSPs denounced him as "bumbling" and described his handling of the weather data and the ensuing travel crisis as "incompetent" and a "a first-class cock up".

• Stewart Stevenson's full resignation letter

He told Holyrood in a statement on Thursday: "The fact of the matter is that, when the transport system grinds to a halt, and people are forced to spend the night in their cars, then something has clearly gone wrong.

"I regret this, and apologise for the failure to communicate the situation effectively to the many people affected on Monday when the extent of the problem became apparent."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said this afternoon: "Scotland had lost confidence in the transport minister and it was only right that he should resign.

"The First Minister should not have stretched the issue out over the last week and acted more decisively at an earlier stage."

Mr Stevenson's work on climate change was, however, praised by Friends of the Earth Scotland .

Head of campaigns Juliet Swann said: "Stewart Stevenson should be proud of his achievements in shepherding the Climate Change Act through the Scottish Parliament as Scotland's first dedicated Minister for Climate Change.

"Friends of the Earth Scotland look forward to working with Mr Stevenson's successor to implement and improve on the policies the Scottish Government have proposed in the last month."

Conservative leader at Holyrood Annabel Goldie said: "Clearly Alex Salmond and Stewart Stevenson had to bow to the inevitable.

"Conditions in Scotland were appalling.

"The FM and his transport minister were being controlled by events - there was weak leadership and an absence of direction.

"Stewart Stevenson has taken the right decision to resign, but for the FM and whoever replaces Mr Stevenson have major work to do to regain public confidence.

"All of Scotland hopes that the SNP Government learns the lesson of recent events to keep Scotland moving in the future."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott said: "The people of Scotland deserve an awful lot better than they're getting at present from the SNP.

"The First Minister needs to stand up and take responsibility for the shambles his government is in."

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