FORMER Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray has announced he is to quit Holyrood at next year's election.

Gray said his decision to step down has been made "even harder" by the "difficult circumstances" of responding to the coronavirus crisis.

But he added he will be almost 69 at the end of the next Scottish Parliament term.

Gray said: "After more than 20 years at the front line of Scottish politics, next year is the right time for me to step aside and hand over to someone else."

The ex-leader was one of the first group of MSPs elected to Holyrood in 1999 when he won the Edinburgh Pentlands seat.

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He served as both social justice minister and enterprise, transport and lifelong learning minister in the then-Scottish Executive.

But he lost his seat in 2003 when he was ousted by the then-Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie.

After four years away from the Parliament he returned in 2007 after winning the East Lothian constituency - the area he has represented ever since.

He was Labour leader between 2008 and 2011.

Gray, who was a school teacher before becoming an MSP, said: "Serving the East Lothian constituency since 2007 has been one of the greatest honours of my life and I've enjoyed every moment of representing our unique and very special area at Holyrood.

"I often say that East Lothian is the best constituency in Scotland and the best place in Scotland to live, and I mean it.

"I had the privilege of being part of the first Scottish Parliament intake in 1999, before East Lothian gave me the opportunity to return to Holyrood in 2007 and then serve as my party's leader, and I will always be grateful for that."

"However, I will be 64 next year, almost 69 by the end of the next Parliament and after more than 20 years at the frontline of Scottish politics, next year is the right time for me to step aside and hand over to someone else to represent East Lothian's interests.

"I really, genuinely do want to spend more time with my family, especially my wife Gil who has supported me unstintingly through all the ups and downs of political life, and the seven fantastic grandchildren with whom I am now blessed."