Lochhead puts family before Government as he quits cabinet

RICHARD LOCHHEAD WILL not serve as a Scottish Government cabinet secretary in the new team expected to be announced by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon later today.

The Moray MSP last night quit his post as Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary, saying that he wished to spend more time with his family – however, the long-serving MSP will retain his seat at the Holyrood Parliament and continue to serve the people of Moray.

In a letter to the First Minister, Mr Lochhead said that it was time to “change the priorities” in his life.  The Moray MSP had come under increasing pressure following what was described as a “fiasco” over a new computer system intended to control farm subsidy payments.

He has been held personally responsible for the failure to deliver the new system on time, resulting in Scottish farmers facing severe financial difficulties as millions in subsidy payments were delayed.

Opposition members had been demanding that he be removed from his post – however, the decision was taken away from the First Minister with Mr Lochhead deciding to remove himself from the running for a place in the new Scottish Government team.

In his resignation letter, he told the First Minister that he was now looking to spend more time with his family. Mr Lochhead’s wife, Fiona, has been fighting breast cancer over the last year and that is a major factor in his decision to quit.

He said: “After much thought in recent months, I have taken the decision that after nine incredible but hectic years as cabinet secretary the time has come to change the priorities in my life, especially in light of recent family circumstances.

“I now wish to focus on supporting Fiona and also my young sons Angus and Fraser, who are growing up fast and whom I want to see more of in the next few years.”

Mr Lochhead said that he would continue to serve his Moray constituents, adding: “I am very proud to represent Moray in the Scottish Parliament and look forward to continuing to serve my constituents to the best of my ability.  I will continue to serve Scotland and the cause of independence for our country in any way I can.”

In her response the First Minister acknowledged the long and faithful service Mr Lochhead had undertaken under the SNP leadership of both Alex Salmond and herself.

She said: “Chief among this is overseeing world-leading efforts to tackle climate change which we have brought forward, as well as the unprecedented success now being enjoyed by Scotland’s food and drink industry, which is booming in no small part for the efforts you have made on the sector’s behalf.”