TRIBUTES have been paid after Holyrood’s top official announced he is stepping down following 20 years at the helm. 

Sir Paul Grice, who helped set up the Scottish Parliament and is Holyrood’s clerk and chief executive, is to become principal and vice-chancellor of Queen Margaret University.

He said it had been a “privilege and a pleasure to have been involved with the Parliament since the beginning and to have had the opportunity to play a part in its development into a successful and well-respected institution”.

As a civil servant, Sir Paul took charge of the legislation that paved the way for devolution under Tony Blair’s Labour Government.

He has since acted as a neutral "adviser and small-p political manager" to five first ministers and five presiding officers.

In a letter to MSPs announcing his departure, he said: “My enthusiasm for the Parliament and commitment to what it stands for is undimmed, but now feels like the right time for me to go.

“There will be other opportunities to say a proper goodbye and I will write again before I leave. For now, I simply wanted to thank you for all your support and encouragement over the years.”

Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said: “Paul Grice has been at the heart of the Scottish Parliament from the very beginning.

“He led the team which established this new open and accessible institution, designed to serve all of the people of Scotland, going on to become our first chief executive, the first clerk of the Scottish Parliament.

“Paul brought professionalism and dedication to the role, but more than that, his warmth, humour and generosity of spirit are reflected back in the welcoming and supportive attitude of all the staff who work at Holyrood.

“As we look back over the past 20 years, I would want to pay tribute to Paul’s leadership, his knowledge and his commitment to the Parliament all of which have been vital in guiding the organisation through the many changes we have witnessed.

“On a personal note, he has been a guide and a friend to me and to so many other MSPs throughout our time in Parliament, and I cannot thank him enough for the help he gave me when I took on the role of Presiding Officer. His support, advice and wise counsel was always welcome, and I speak on behalf of the whole organisation to say that he will be truly missed.

“We wish him well in his new role and he will leave with the heartfelt thanks and appreciation of so many for all he has done for the Scottish Parliament.”

Scottish Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “On behalf of the Scottish Conservatives I would like to thank Sir Paul Grice for his service and wish him every happiness in his new role.

“He’s steered the Scottish Parliament through the first 20 years of its existence, and he’ll be an extremely tough act to follow.

“He has made a huge contribution in ensuring the Scottish Parliament is an established and high-profile part of Scottish public life.”

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP said: “I wish to thank Paul Grice for the tremendous service he has given to the Scottish Parliament over the last twenty years, and particularly the effort he has made to make each intake of new MSPs feel welcome.

“Paul has played a pivotal role as the Parliament has developed and become embedded in the everyday lives of the people of Scotland. He has earned widespread respect, and I wish him all the best in his new role.”

Sir Paul, who was knighted for his services to Holyrood in 2016, will leave at the end of September.