SCOTLAND'S longest-serving Catholic bishop is to leave his post, 10 months after tendering his resignation.

Bishop of Motherwell Joe Devine submitted his resignation having turned 75 last year, but had continued in his role until replacements were found.

It has been claimed appointments were held up in the wake of the scandal involving Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

It is understood Bishop Devine's departure means that of the eight dioceses in Scotland, only three have full-time bishops in post who are not waiting to leave – in Glasgow, Oban and Aberdeen.

Cardinal O'Brien, 75, resigned earlier this year amid allegations of "inappropriate behaviour" towards young priests in the 1980s and his subsequent admissions of sexual behaviour.

Bishop Devine's role will be handed over to an administrator while the diocese looks for a permanent successor.

The Diocese of Motherwell said in a statement: "Bishop Devine tendered his resignation in early August 2012 on the occasion of his 75th birthday, having served as Bishop of Motherwell for 30 years. He had hoped that his successor would be appointed shortly thereafter. He was told, however, that would be unlikely and that he would have to continue into 2013.

"He is now relieved and happy that 10 months after tendering his resignation that the burden of office is now being handed initially to an administrator, as has happened in other dioceses, and in the fullness of time to a younger man who will be ordained as the new Bishop of Motherwell."

Last month Bishop Devine backed down from moves to sanction a serving priest over claims the Church had covered up a culture of sexual bullying.

He issued a notice stating no action would be taken against Father Matthew Despard, who alleged sexual misconduct had been rife for decades in seminaries training teenage priests.

Father Despard, parish priest of St John Ogilvie's in High Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, had written a book on the allegations.

The book names serving priests and claims senior figures in the Church refused to confront abuse and bullying complaints.

Last month, Bishop Devine's office was hit by allegations questioning how he handled abuse cases.

Alan Draper, a former child protection consultant for the Scottish Catholic Church, claimed he had stopped working for Bishop Devine because his advice was consistently ignored.

In March, after revelations Mr Draper knew of 20 abuse cases where no action was taken, the Church issued a statement dismissing his remarks.

It said the number of cases reported in Scotland each year was "small" and "have only very rarely involved a member of the clergy".

The Diocese of Motherwell paid tribute to the outgoing bishop, saying: "He will always have a deep fondness for the people of Lanarkshire and is greatly appreciative of the loyalty, support and generosity that he has received not only from his own congregations but from people of all faiths and none."

Earlier this week, Peter Kearney, director of the media office for the Catholic Church north of the Border, claimed Scotland is a hostile environment in which to live for followers of the faith.