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Bill Aitken to retire at next Scottish Parliament elections

High-profile Conservative MSP Bill Aitken is to stand down at the Scottish Parliament elections next year.

Mr Aitken, the only Tory MSP ever elected in Glasgow, said he had decided to retire because he would have been 67 if re-elected and served a full four-year term.

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Widely-respected and hugely popular among all parties at Holyrood, he was honoured for his work as convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice committee in 2008 in The Herald’s Scottish Politician of the Year Awards.

He is still in charge of the Justice Committee and is highly regarded as one of Holyrood’s best conveners.

Mr Aitken, often dubbed “Bailie Bill” by his friends because of his time on the bench in Glasgow and his wide knowledge of the justice system, served as a councillor in Glasgow for around 23 years and has been an MSP from the start of the Scottish Parliament.

He was first elected to Glasgow City Council in 1976 when Jim Callaghan was Labour Prime Minister and Margaret Thatcher was the Conservative leader.

Labour was in control of Glasgow council at the time of his election but, tongue in cheek, he said: “Thanks to my efforts the Conservatives won control.”

That wasn’t to last, and Mr Aitken led the opposition twice.

He was also a Bailie for 12 years.

At Holyrood, he served on the housing committee, he was the Conservative chief whip for four years and has been the Justice Committee convener for the last three.

He said life at Holyrood had been “immensely stimulating at every level”.

Among the biggest challenges had been the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill which has just finished being scrutinised by his committee.

Mr Aitken said: “It has been an arduous process because of the number of amendments but I think it is being sent to the parliament in an excellent state and hopefully it will be approved.”

His greatest achievement, he said, was driving Conservative policy which forced the SNP Government to put 1000 extra police on the streets.

Mr Aitken, who was an insurance industry underwriter before becoming an MSP, said his only major disappointment during his political career was that the Tories had not won a second MSP seat in Glasgow but he would be working hard to help the party achieve that next year.

Though he would not reveal his plans for retirement, Mr Aitken is a regular visitor to the Greek island of Rhodes and he joked: “How bad can living beside a beach be?”

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said: “Bill is a great personal friend, a standard bearer for the party and an outstanding champion for the people of the city he loves, Glasgow.”

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