A Labour politician who has been campaigning to try to keep the UK in Europe’s single market is quitting her MEP post early.
Catherine Stihler, who has represented Scotland at the European Parliament since 1999, has announced she will stand down at the end of January.
All UK MEPs are due to leave their posts by 29 March 29 - the day the UK formally leaves the European Union.
Ms Stihler is leaving eight weeks early to take up a new position as the chief executive of global non-profit organisation Open Knowledge International.
She said: “It has been a privilege to represent the Labour Party and serve as an MEP for Scotland for nearly two decades.
“I was the youngest British MEP when first elected at 25 in 1999 and I witnessed the EU expand and reform to bring nations closer together in the interests of co-operation and peace.
“I have seen first-hand the positive and lasting impact that EU membership has had on our economy, workers’ rights, and consumer protection.”
Ms Stihler, together with former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and MP Ian Murray, set up the Scottish Labour for the Single Market campaign group, calling for the party to back the UK’s continued membership of the trading bloc post-Brexit.
Ms Dugdale said on Twitter she was “very sorry to see @C_Stihler_MEP leave elected politics”.
The Lothian MSP said: “She has been a phenomenal support to me from the moment I joined the party.
“A first-class parliamentarian and passionate advocate for Labour and for what the EU is and does. I wish her every success in the future.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Catherine has been a long-standing and committed MEP, representing the people of Scotland and working with European socialist parties to improve workers’ and consumer rights.
“She is someone of deep conviction and principle. We wish her every success in her new role.”
Ms Stihler said she was now “relishing an exciting new challenge and opportunity with Open Knowledge International”.
She said: “Digital skills and data use have always been a personal passion and I am eager to assist groups across the world to create and share open knowledge and encourage the next generation to understand that information is power, which can be used to address poverty and other social challenges.”
Tim Hubbard, chairman of the Open Knowledge International board, said the body was “delighted” Ms Stihler was joining them.
He said: “She has years of experience in shaping policy and using evidence and openness to help address global challenges such as climate change, internet freedoms and public health.
“Catherine has demonstrated an ability to bring people together, building coalitions and trust in a world that really needs it.
“She has translated complicated and technical knowledge around digital skills, copyright and AI to help shape European policy, making a real and lasting difference for hundreds of millions of people.”