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Lib Dem hostility led to former MSP Jamie Stone quitting

By Hugh Ross

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Councillor Jamie Stone - 'There were several Lib Dem members who were wanting me to be replaced as the party candidate.'
Councillor Jamie Stone - 'There were several Lib Dem members who were wanting me to be replaced as the party candidate.'

A FORMER Highland MSP has revealed that hostility within his own party led him to quit his seat and not seek re-election.

Jamie Stone served as the Liberal Democrat MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross for 12 years after he was first elected in 1999.

Despite winning three consecutive elections, he stepped down from the job in 2011 and said at the time he wanted to pursue "new avenues".

The 58-year-old was elected as a member of Highland Council last year for Tain and Easter Ross, although he has a backbench role in the SNP-Lib Dem-Labour coalition.

But in an interview with Scottish Provincial Press, he said hostility from local Lib Dem members had also been a factor in quitting as an MSP.

"This is something I have never spoken about publicly before but it was part of my decision to stand down as an MSP," he said.

"There were several Lib Dem members who were wanting me to be replaced as the party candidate. That was despite having held the seat and increasing the majority. It was a pretty unpleasant episode. But it’s all in the past."

Mr Stone, who declined to name his critics, said he came to the conclusion it had been time to leave the national political arena.

"I am actually quite loyal to my party so I campaigned vigorously afterwards," he said.

"It’s behind me, let bygones begone. Oddly enough the individuals involved at the time are no longer members of the party, which is ironic."

Meanwhile, the experienced councillor – who began his political career as a district representative in Ross-shire in the mid-1980s – has claimed some of his former Holyrood colleagues looked down on councillors and "pitied" them.

"I have heard some quite rude comments about councillors. Someone said to me when they heard I was going back: ‘Are you completely off your head?’ An MSP who will remain anonymous said: ‘Do you really want to sink into that swamp again?’ I thought that was an appalling comment."

Mr Stone called for MSPs to shadow councillors for a fortnight because they had no idea about the huge workload councillors faced.

"They don’t get the back-up which MSPs and MPs take for granted, members of staff running about after you, running your diary – none of that. It’s a difficult job dealing at point-blank range with the electorate. While I knew that to an extent when I was a councillor before, coming back down from the political tower has really reinforced it."

Read more of this interview in Wednesday's Caithness Courier.

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