Former Dumbarton solicitor is retiring from politics
By Bill Heaney
Scotland’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham has announced she is to stand down as an MSP at the next Holyrood election.
The SNP minister, pictured left, who once worked as a solicitor with Dumbarton District Council, said she had taken the decision after “some hard thinking” but would continue “to fight for independence”.
She pointed out that next year’s Scottish Parliament election would be two months before her 70th birthday.
Ms Cunningham has been an MP and then an MSP in Perth and Kinross since 1995.
The former solicitor has held three different cabinet positions – covering the environment, fair work and community safety portfolios.
She was SNP deputy leader between 2000 and 2004, and ran against Alex Salmond when he was elected party leader that year.
Ms Cunningham said in a statement it had been a “massive honour” to represent her constituents at both Westminster and Holyrood.
“I have always been hugely grateful to all who have put their faith in me,” she said.
“After a quarter of a century as an elected politician, and with another election fast approaching, I have had to do some hard thinking.
“By the time of the next election I will be less than two months away from my 70th birthday and, further, by the end of that parliamentary term I would be nearly 75. This year, of all years, has made age a rather more relevant factor than it may otherwise have been.
“I have, accordingly, taken the very difficult decision to inform my local constituency association that I will not be seeking nomination as an SNP candidate for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.”
As a teenager she became interested in politics, and in 1969 joined the SNP as an overseas member. In 1975 Cunningham graduated from the University of Western Australia with a BA Hons in politics. She returned to Scotland in 1976.
She worked as a research assistant at SNP headquarters from 1977 to 1979, and was a member of the left-wing 79 Group inside the SNP during the early 1980s, but avoided expulsion as she was not a member of its steering committee (future SNP leader Alex Salmond by contrast who served on the 79 Group committee was expelled, while Margo MacDonald resigned from the party in protest before she could be expelled).
Cunningham returned to university in 1980, graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 with a Bachelor of Laws degree, followed in 1983 by a Diploma in Legal Practice from the University of Aberdeen.
She worked as a solicitor for Dumbarton District Council and Glasgow District Council. After a brief period in private practice, she was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1990.
Roseanna Cunningham on the litter-strewn shore at Arrochar on Loch Longside with Jackie Baillie MEP, George Freeman and members of the Lochside community.
Ms Cunningham is the third leading figure in the SNP to announce they will step down as an MSP.
Michael Russell, who represents Argyll and Bute, confirmed in March that he would not stand in the Holyrood election next year.
Mr Russell, who will be 67 in August, said it may be time for someone younger to represent the constituency.
It has also been announced that Stewart Stevenson, who represents Banffshire and Buchan Coast for the SNP, will leave parliament at the election.
He is 74 and has been an SNP activist since 1961.