MSP quits Lib Dems in protest

THE Liberal Democrats were last night rocked by the resignation of a prominent Scottish politician, who has quit in protest against the party's decision to go into government with the Conservatives.

Hugh O'Donnell, who was a list MSP for Central Scotland, is understood to have been unhappy for some time about the direction the party is taking. After drawing a 57,000 taxpayer-funded salary for the past four years as a list MSP, O'Donnell decided it was time to resign as an election candidate at a time when the Liberals face a mauling at the Scottish election.

Last night a terse one-line statement from the Liberal Democrats said: "We have accepted Hugh O'Donnell's resignation."

Senior figures in the party are understood to be furious that O'Donnell did not speak to Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott before deciding to quit.

He is understood to have announced his resignation in a letter that was e-mailed to the Liberal Democrat headquarters.

A senior Liberal Democrat source said: "He didn't even pick up the phone to the party leader. Apparently he's been unhappy for some time. He is not going to be missed and we will be a far more united team without him."

O'Donnell has been active in Lib Dem politics for many years. He was an aide to the former MSP Donald Gorrie.

He has a degree in communications from Queen Margaret University. Before entering parliament, he worked in the retail and property sectors as a community care professional and as a college lecturer.

He was a member of both the Scottish and federal policy committees and has held the position of vice-convenor and treasurer of the Central Scotland Liberal Democrats.

He has a particular interest in disability rights issues, minority groups' rights and social issues. Outside politics, he lists his interests as reading, historical research and Tai Chi.