ONE of Holyrood’s longest-serving MSPs is standing down at next year’s election.

The SNP’s Alex Neil, who was first elected as regional list MSP for Central Scotland in 1999, will not seek re-selection for the 2021 ballot.

The Airdrie and Shotts MSP says he wants to spend more time with his family.

A statement reads: “It has been a privilege and a pleasure to have been an MSP for the last 21 years, especially since 2011 when I became the constituency MSP for Airdrie and Shotts. The people in this constituency are great, despite the many challenges we face. I was tempted to stand again as I love my constituency.

“After much soul searching, I have decided that to commit to another five years as an MSP would mean not having the time to pursue all the other things in life I want to do.

“I also owe it to my wife and family to spend more time with them. I have two beautiful granddaughters who miss me when I am away so often on parliamentary and constituency business. I want to spend more time with them.

“I have another eight months to serve out my term. My priorities during that time will be to help tackle the fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic in my constituency and to ensure that the new Monklands Hospital will be located in one of the two shortlisted sites in Airdrie and not at Gartcosh.”

READ MORE: SNP MSP Roseanna Cunningham to step down before Scottish Parliament election

Neil succeeded Nicola Sturgeon as health secretary, holding the post for two years between 2012 and 2014. He was also in the Scottish Cabinet as communities secretary until 2016.

His announcement comes 24 hours after environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham revealed she was standing down.

SNP colleagues Gil Paterson and Angus MacDonald have also announced in recent months that they will not seek re-election.

They join the likes of Stewart Stevenson, Bruce Crawford, Michael Russell, Bruce Crawford, Gail Ross and Richard Lyle in deciding to stand down.

Commenting on Neil's announcement, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tweeted: "You have made an enormous contribution as a MSP and as a Minister Alex. You retire as we close in on achieving independence, Scotland has come a long way since you were elected 21 years ago. Now time to play a part in delivering independence as this chapter closes."

SNP MP Drew Hendry posted: "It's really tough seeing great folk stepping down, especially one so fearless in politics. Always a generous and helpful friend to me, Alex has been the same to his constituents during his service, putting them and the people of Scotland first. All the best." 

Scottish Tory MSP Donald Cameron added: "Big loss this. One of Holyrood's most effective and intelligent MSPs and fiercely independent-minded. Happy retirement."