SIR Menzies Campbell is to retire at the next general election in 2015, he announced yesterday, bringing an end to a near 30-year career as an MP.
The 72-year-old former leader of the Liberal Democrats said he planned to stand down from the North East Fife seat he has held since 1987, declaring it had been “an enormous privilege” to serve constituents.
In his letter to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, Sir Menzies said he had “reached the conclusion that now would be the right time to step down and to allow someone else to have the opportunity to serve the people of North East Fife”.
He said he would maintain his links with the constituency through positions, including his chancellorship of St Andrews University. He told Mr Clegg, who replaced him as leader in 2007: “Between now and 2015 I will maintain my efforts to be as effective a representative of my constituents and their interests as I can and to the best of my ability support yourself, our party and its interests.”
Sir “Ming” came to national prominence in 2003 when, as foreign affairs spokesman for the Lib Dems, he led opposition to the invasion of Iraq.
He then rose to lead his party between 2006 and 2007 before making way for Mr Clegg.
He said he had loved representing his “wonderful” Scottish constituency during that time.
He added: “My wife and I have made many friends and have been supported by constituents of all political persuasions and none.”
He went on: “It is always a regret to begin the process of retiring from the House of Commons, but I believe now is the time to start.”
It is widely expected that Sir Menzies will be offered a place in the House of Lords after he retires.
His political career spans five decades, and began when became chairman of the Scottish Liberals in 1975.
He stood unsuccessfully three times for parliament before finally winning the North East Fife seat, a constituency he has now held for six full parliaments.
Prior to his political career, he was an acclaimed athlete, holding the UK 100 metres record for seven years and competing in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Mr Clegg said: “As well as being an outstanding leader, Sir Menzies is a brilliant orator and someone who commands both attention and affection from all sides of the House in Westminster.”
He added: “Of his many achievements in politics, I suspect he will be most vividly remembered for his passionate and articulate opposition to the war in Iraq.
“Sir Menzies has been a towering presence in British politics for the past three decades.
“He has served this country and our party with unparalleled distinction.
“Most people would be satisfied with just one outstanding career, but Menzies Campbell has had three – as an Olympic athlete, a renowned QC, and a leading politician.
“Speaking personally, I have relied for a long time on Ming’s enormous wisdom and knowledge and his retirement from Westminster is a sad day for me, my party and British politics as a whole.”
Willie Rennie, the party’s Scottish leader, also paid tribute to Sir Menzies’ foreign affairs expertise.
“Menzies Campbell’s wise and intelligent counsel has guided our nation through some of its most testing dilemmas.
“From Yugoslavia to Iraq to Syria he has been insightful and calm, but never feared standing out from the crowd.”
He added: “For over 35 years Ming has dedicated himself to his constituency of North East Fife and in return local people have put their trust in him.
“He converted a healthy Conservative majority into a healthy Liberal Democrat one.”