HOLYROOD deputy presiding officer Linda Fabiani has announced she is to stand down at next year’s election.

The SNP MSP for East Kilbride has been at the parliament since it was reconvened in 1999.

Ms Fabiani, who is the convener of the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair, said she would be 65 in 2021 and “I feel I cannot make another five-year commitment”.

She said her “big regret” was not winning independence in the 2014 referendum.

Ms Fabiani won her seat with a majority of 10,979 in 2016, meaning a keen internal selection fight for the SNP candidacy to replace her.

Glasgow City Councillor Rhiannon Spear and former minister and MEP Aileen McLeod have been tipped as possible contenders.

Ms Fabiani said: “There are many people in the SNP with great energy and commitment. I am happy to step aside and let others take up the challenge and to deliver independence.”

Ms Fabiani was one of the Holyrood progress group in charge of delivering the new parliament at the outset of devolution - it overran its budget tenfold and cost £414m. 

She was appointed the SNP’s first europe and culture minister when the party took power in 2007, a post she held for two years.

She later chaired the Scotland Bill committee that flowed from the Calman Commission and led to the Scotland Act 2012. 

After the 2014 referendum, she was one of two SNP representatives on the Smith Commission that gave rise to the Scotland Act 2016.

MSPs elected her as one of two Deputy Presiding Officers after the 2016 Holyrood election.

She is the latest in a series of MSPs to announce their exit next year.

Others include the SNP’s Gail Ross, Mike Russell, Richard Lyle, Bruce Crawford and Stewart Stevenson, and the former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.

Ms Fabiani said: “It was a massive privilege to have helped bring about and then be appointed to serve in the first ever SNP Government in what was a whirlwind period of change.

“As Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture, my role was to promote Scotland both at home and overseas.

"That first period of SNP Government was critical in raising Scotland’s confidence and showing we could take a different path.

“I have influenced policies that have a direct impact and I hope my long-term work on equal rights for all, justice for survivors of institutional abuse, a better deal for carers, and a fairer system for victims of domestic abuse has helped people across the country." 

She went on: “My big regret is that we didn’t achieve independence in the 2014 referendum. Many others share that regret.

“For decades, even before joining the SNP, I believed Scotland - like other small and successful nations - should make its own decisions. As with so many dedicated activists I’ll never stop campaigning for independence."