THE former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott is to quit Holyrood next month, triggering a byelection.

The Shetlands Islands MSP is resigning after 20 years at the Scottish Parliament to take up the newly created role of head of external affairs at Scottish Rugby in August.

He will oversee Scottish Rugby’s corporate affairs and media operations and liaise with government and the member clubs of the Union.

Mr Scott, 53, was leader of the Scottish LibDems from 2008 to 2011, taking his party to one of its worst ever results with the loss of 11 of its 16 MSPs, prompting his resignation.

READ MORE: Tavish Scott quits as LibDem leader

He was also instrumental in blocking a LibDem alliance with the minority SNP government elected at the 2007 election.

In the Labour-LibDem coalition in the early years of devolution, he was minister for transport from 2005 to 2007.

He is the second former party leader to announce their departure from Holyrood.

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale will also stand down in July after eight years as an MSP.

She will be replaced as a Lothians list MSP by the former Labour minister Sarah Boyack.

However as a constituency MSP, Mr Scott’s exit will lead to a byelection in what has always been a safe LibDem seat.

In 2016, Mr Scott won 67.4 per cent of the vote to the SNP’s 23.1%.

READ MORE: What now for the LibDems?

Mr Scott said: “Representing the people of Shetland has been my life for 20 years. It has been an enormous privilege and honour to have been Shetland’s MSP since the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999.

“I want to thank people the length and breadth of the islands for their support over the years. The bread and butter of representing people is helping solve problems and making their case to government, organisations and businesses. I have always enjoyed the challenge of serving Shetland and it is the part of the job that I will, without doubt, miss the most.

“There have been many highlights, wonderful moments and intense political drama that I would not have missed for anything. I leave the Liberal Democrats at an exciting time in the party’s development. There have been excellent recent results in the recent European elections, improved poll ratings and there is genuine optimism about the future for the party.

“So on this, the 20th anniversary week of the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament, it is the right time for me to change direction.

“I am absolutely delighted to be joining Scottish Rugby at this incredibly exciting time for the sport in Scotland and across the world.

"To have the opportunity to work for Scottish Rugby is a huge challenge and one that I cannot wait to begin.

"I will miss the cut and thrust of politics and the people I have met and represented for 20 years, but there can be no better new beginning than working for Scottish Rugby.”

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: “Tavish Scott has been a loyal servant of the Liberal Democrats and the people of Shetland as a parliamentarian, minister and leader.

“From the day the Scottish Parliament was re-established he has put the people of his constituency first and campaigned fiercely on their behalf.

“As a huge sports fan, this is an enormous opportunity for him. I will miss having him beside me in parliament but wish him all the best in his new role.”

Before entering Holyrood in 1999, Mr Scott was a Shetland Islands councillor for five years, representing Lerwick Harbour & Bressay.

READ MORE: LibDems in second homes profit call

Scottish Rugby’s Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay said: “I am delighted to have secured someone of Tavish’s experience to join Scottish Rugby at this exciting time in our development.

“As we continue to further grow our activities across Scotland and internationally it is key, we work hard to maintain the excellent relationships we enjoy with our Government and Local authority partners at all levels whilst enhancing our communications with our member clubs the length and breadth of the country.

“I believe Tavish brings a unique set of skills to this new role which will help us to continue to develop important dialogue and promote the work we are doing to the widest possible audience at home and abroad.”

Highlands & Islands Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: "I’d like to wish Tavish Scott all the very best as he leaves the Scottish Parliament after twenty years serving as MSP for Shetland, and formerly as Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

“As a former adviser to Highlands and Islands MSPs and as an MSP for the region now myself, I have seen first-hand Tavish’s commitment to standing up for local communities in Shetland, and his wider contribution to political and public life in Scotland.

“His geniality, compassion and resolve will be missed both in Shetland and at Holyrood, and I wish him well in his new role and wherever the future takes him.”