The Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced her decision not to stand at next year's Holyrood elections.

Announcing her decision to her constituency association on Monday evening Ms Freeman said: "After very careful thought I have decided not to stand for re-selection as the SNP candidate for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections," she said, in a statement.

"It has been a real privilege and pleasure to represent the Ayrshire I grew up in and which in so many ways, made me who I am today.  I have also been privileged to hold two ministerial offices in the Scottish Government in that time, initially charged with setting up Scotland’s first social security service and now as Cabinet Secretary for Health. 

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"In Government and as a local MSP for a great constituency, I have learned a great deal and have had the opportunity to work with very many talented, committed and compassionate people. 

"I will be 67 later this year and 72 by the end of the next parliamentary term and while I have a great deal of energy left and more I want to do, I think it is the right time for me to stand aside and let another take forward the work as an MSP for this constituency. Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley is a beautiful part of our country and it is full of talented, enterprising and hard working people. It will be an honour for whoever wins the constituency seat, as it has been for me.

"I have been hugely supported by SNP members in Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley and I am grateful to them all. I owe a particular debt to my hardworking and excellent constituency staff, Tracy, Paul and Jayde without whom I literally couldn’t have done the job.

"In the months ahead I will continue my focus on the work we need to do as a country to meet the challenges facing us all in dealing with COVID-19, supporting our NHS and social care workers, and in re-mobilising our NHS and social care services to the greatest extent possible."

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She added: "I remain even firmer in my conviction that the right future for the people of this constituency and of Scotland is one where we have all the democratic and decision-making powers of a normal country. "

"Securing independence by securing the right of people in Scotland to choose their own future will allow us to build on the progressive work of the SNP government since 2007 and fulfil the potential of this place and this country to build the prosperous, inclusive and progressive future we want for all of us and for future generations."

Freeman has been Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport since 2018 having been elected in 2016 and was a central figure in the Scottish Government's Covid-19 response. 

She becomes the 12th SNP MSP who has announced their departure from Holyrood next year. 

Taking to social media John Swinney wrote: Very sorry to hear this news from @JeaneF1MSP - a principled Minister who has given extraordinary commitment and leadership in all that she has done especially in social security and health. All good wishes for the future."

Stewart McDonald MP paid tribute to the work carried out by the Health Secretary tweeting: "Sorry to hear that @JeaneF1MSP is standing down. Jeane did incredible work establishing Scotland’s first social security system and has given real leadership throughout the coronavirus pandemic as health secretary. I’m sure she still has a big role in Scotland’s future."