Tavish Scott resigned as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats today after the party’s disastrous showing in the Scottish Parliament election on Thursday.
Although he retained the Shetland seat with a significantly reduced majority after a strong showing by independent candidate Billy Fox, Mr Scott was one of only two constituency MPs who made it back to Holyrood. The other was Orkney MSP Liam MacArthur. The party’s other three MSPs, making five in total, down from 16, were elected on regional lists.
In a statement, Mr Scott said: “I want to announce that I am resigning the leadership of the Scottish Liberal Democrats with immediate effect.
“Thursday’s Scottish general election result was disastrous and I must and do take responsibility for the verdict of the electorate.
“The party needs a new direction, new thinking and new leadership to win back the trust of the Scottish people. I am honoured to serve as Shetland’s MSP in this Parliament.”
Mr Scott’s decision to stand down as party leader follows that of Labour leader Iain Gray, who announced yesterday that he would quit.
Mr Scott admitted that the Liberal Democrats’ decision to form a coalition government with the Conservatives, which is striving to reduce the nation’s debt by imposing deep cuts on government spending, had damaged the party in the contest.
Other possible party leaders, such as former cabinet minister Ross Finnie and chief whip Mike Rumbles, who challenged Mr Scott for the leadership after Nicol Stephen stood down in 2008, failed to be returned to Holyrood on Thursday.
That means Willie Rennie, the party’s only new MSP, could become leader. The others are Alison McInness (north-east list) and Jim Hume (south of Scotland list).
Orkney and Shetland MP and Lib Dem chief whip at Westminster, Alistair Carmichael, said his party had been given “an absolute shellacking”.
Mr Carmichael said: “We’ve got a small group in the parliament who are going to have to do a lot of heavy lifting.”