Great Britain

Gail Ross to quit as Highlands MSP as job incompatible with young family

Caithness MSP Gail Ross has announced she is to stand down from Holyrood.
Caithness MSP Gail Ross has announced she is to stand down from Holyrood.

The stress of representing a Highlands constituency has forced an SNP MSP to stand down, claiming the job is incompatible with having a young family.

Gail Ross, who has represented Caithness, Sutherland and Ross since winning the seat in 2016, has said she will not stand for re-election next year.

She is the fourth SNP MSP to announce they will quit Holyrood - James Dornan in Glasgow Cathcart, Richard Lyle in Uddingston and Bellshill, and Bruce Crawford in Stirling are also leaving next year after serving two and three terms respectively.

However Ms Ross, 42, has put the blame for her decision to go after just one term on the geographical distance between the constituency and Parliament and the pressures this put on her family.

She said: “The decision has been reached due to the demands of travelling to Edinburgh and being away from home for sometimes five days a week, every week. I want to be able to spend more time with my family, to watch my son grow up and to be more involved in local issues, things I cannot presently do.

“The sheer size of the area I represent also means that I am having difficulty in reaching every part of the constituency on a regular basis and I am not able to represent my constituents in the way they deserve and rightly expect."

Ms Ross, who lives in Wick, has previously spoken about her battle with depression in her twenties, and said she had asked for more flexible working to relieve the pressure on MSPs who represent rural and remote constituencies. She had asked Parliament's Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee to investigate if MSPs could attend meetings by video link and being able to cast vote in debates remotely.

She added: If we are to encourage into politics more young people with families who live far away from Edinburgh, this has to be considered.

"It has not been an easy decision to make and I wish to sincerely thank everyone who has supported me in my journey through council and then parliament. It has been a huge privilege to represent the place where I grew up and although the job has sometimes been very challenging, these years have been some of the most rewarding of my professional career."

Ms Ross who served on Highland Council before winning in the 2016 election - taking the seat from the Scottish Liberal Democrats for the first time with a majority of 3,913 - had recently launched a consultation on a Bill she had hoped to bring forward to give new protections to remote mainland communities in Scotland.

However there was also speculation she would face an internal selection battle for the seat for next year's election from Highlands & Islands list MSP Maree Todd, the minister for children and young people.

During her time in Holyrood, Ms Ross has been deputy convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, on the Public Audit Committee, the Equalities and Human Rights Committee and is currently deputy convener of the Petitions Committee, convener of the Cross Party Group on the Prevention and Healing of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Co-convener of the Cross Party Group on Food and a member of the Education and Skills Committee.