Seasoned campaigner and veteran politician, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart, is to retire at the next Scottish Parliament election at the age of 65.
Mr Stewart is one of a small band of Scottish politicians who have served as a councillor, an MP and an MSP.
He became the first Labour MP to represent the previous constituency of Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber in 1997, doubling his majority in 2001 before losing his seat to Lib-Dem Danny Alexander in 2005.
In 2007 he re-entered politics as a Highlands and Islands Labour MSP on the regional list, and was elected for a further two terms, the latest ending next year at the election. In fact, Mr Stewart will be 65 the day before polling day.
“For me retiring is a bitter sweet moment,” said Mr Stewart today.
“I’ve been dedicated to politics and the Labour Party for most of my life. I’ve met thousands of people, worked cross-party with countless politicians, been on the doorstep with many activists for Westminster and Scottish Parliament elections and I don’t regret a moment of it.
“It’s been a privilege to serve Inverness and the Highlands and Islands throughout my career but it’s time to move over for new blood.”
Mr Stewart has announced his retirement this month as his Party works on the selection process for candidates.
The MSP is best known for his campaigning work on road safety, initially becoming involved in fighting for a Graduated Driving Licence for young drivers after the death of two 17-year-olds in a tragic accident in Inverness in 2010.
In 2018, after an eight-year campaign and cross-party support from the Scottish Parliament, he was delighted when the UK Government finally decided to pilot Graduated Driving Licences.
As well as collecting awards for his work from road safety group Brake, he has continued to speak up and support residents campaigning for road safety improvements, for instance, getting behind the need for new crossings and speed restrictions.
During his three terms in the Scottish Parliament, he has lodged two successful Member’s Bills – one on dangerous buildings, allowing councils to step in and recoup costs if property is in a dangerous state. The second, for installing fire sprinklers in all new social housing, should come to fruition next year with the implementation of new Scottish Government regulations.
He has represented Scotland twice as a Scottish Diabetes Champion and continues to support improvements for diabetics as part of this role as Scottish Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister.
As a Westminster MP, he fought and won the campaign to have Inverness recognised as a city – in 2000 it was one of six created to mark the new millennium.
His Labour Highlands and Islands MSP colleague, Rhoda Grant, said she will be sad to see him go.
“David is a dedicated politician and a good friend, always willing to fight for his constituents and not afraid to launch campaigns to achieve his goal,” she said.
“He has achieved respect from across the parliamentary divide which is no mean feat in today’s political world. He will have hard shoes to fill and will be a great miss to the Parliament, however I will continue to seek his advice and use his knowledge built up during a lifetime of public service.”
Highland Councillor, Jimmy Gray, a life-long friend, added: “David is a well kent face in the region. He’s someone that people can relate to, whether that’s in his support of Inverness Caley Thistle or in his more serious work with constituent cases.
“He has made it his aim to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and that’s a good record for a politician.”
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- Born and bred in Inverness, a former Inverness High School pupil, Mr Stewart started his political career after moving to Dumfries when, in 1984, he won a council seat in Nithsdale serving two years.
When he moved back to Inverness as a social worker, he became a Labour Councillor for Inverness District Council’s Park Ward from 1988 to 1996, going on to be the area’s first Labour MP in 1997 when Tony Blair swept to power.
In his time at Westminster, he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then Scottish Secretary, Alistair Darling. Under the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme he was one of the first politicians to visit troops in Iraq and became an honorary Wing Commander for the RAF under the scheme.
From 2005 to 2007 he was Assistant Director, Rural Affairs, for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
In the Scottish Parliament he has served in several senior roles, from Labour Chief Whip, a four-year stint as Convener of the Public Petitions Committee, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Eradication of Poverty and Inequality and is currently Shadow Minister for Public Health. He is also a senior member of the Corporate Body which looks after the Parliament’s property, services and staff.
Mr Stewart is a long-time Inverness Caley Thistle fan, chairman of charity, the Inverness Caley Thistle Trust. He is also a director of the Scottish Cot Death Trust – Mr Stewart and his wife Linda lost their youngest son, eight-month-old Liam, to cot death in 1991 and were supported by the trust.
Linda works for the UHI and is a previous Chair of the Scottish Labour Party. Son Andrew is a neuro-scientist in California and daughter Kirsty runs a leisure business with her partner in Inverness.