Sir Menzies Campbell tonight resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Party president Simon Hughes said in a statement: "Ming Campbell has this evening submitted his resignation as the Leader of the Liberal Democrats with immediate effect.

"Over the past two years, Ming has given stability and purpose to our Party. He has hugely professionalised the working of our Party and led its very successful preparations for the next general election.

"Ming has made this decision - as all his political decisions - in the interest of his Party and Liberal Democracy throughout Britain. Every Liberal Democrat owes Ming a huge debt of gratitude."

Vince Cable, the Lib Dem deputy leader, will take over as party leader until a new leader is elected.

A detailed election timetable will be announced tomorrow.

Acting leader of the party and Sir Menzies' deputy, Vince Cable, said: "During his time as Leader, Ming has earned the respect, affection and gratitude of the party.

"This was reflected in the warmth with which his speech was received by the party conference three weeks ago.

"The key message of that speech was that the Liberal Democrats are the only party with the distinctive, positive vision of a fairer and greener Britain.

"Throughout his political life Ming has campaigned for liberal values and social justice and we will ensure that we build on that legacy."

Sir Menzies' decision comes after speculation mounted in the aprty about his position, following Gordon Brown's decision not to call a general election.

It is understood Glasgow-born Sir Menzies had been sounding out colleagues over the past few days, amid claims he was too old and lacking in dynamism.

The East Fife MP, who lives in Edinburgh, took over the party leadership in 2006 after Charles Kennedy was ousted after he admitted having a drink problem.