Veteran politician David Alexander has quit as leader of the SNP Group on Falkirk Council.
The 53-year-old will continue to represent Falkirk North but is stepping down after 20 years in charge - just four weeks after his party lost the fight to win control of the town hall at the local government elections.
Despite fielding more candidates than anyone else, a record 18, the SNP failed to improve on its 2007 result and finished with 13 councillors. Labour, who took 14 seats, formed a coalition with the two Conservatives and one of the three Independents elected.
On Wednesday, Councillor Alexander insisted: “Alex Salmond said that a political leader had a shelf life of around 10 years, so after leading for 20 it’s time for a change.
“I look at the talent within the SNP Group and am excited. We have a good mix of young and articulate councillors with all the energy and ambition they bring adding to the wisdom brought to the table by our more experienced members. This therefore seems like an opportune moment to step aside and allow that talent to come through. It has been an eventful 20 years but I believe I leave behind a stronger group than the one I took leadership of all those years ago.”
Mr Alexander, who polled the highest number of votes of any candidate who stood on May 3, is now expected to focus on promoting the SNP’s ‘YES’ campaign ahead of the referendum on independence.
He added: “The community I represent is very dear to me and I will continue to work hard in their interests
“All my political life I have campaigned for a fairer society, the type of society that protects the most vulnerable. The goal of a socially just Scotland can only come with independence and so much is at stake that I want to play a role in the campaign that delivers the powers for our parliament that will make Falkirk and the rest of Scotland a better place.”
Falkirk East SNP MSP Angus MacDonald, a former council colleague, said: “David’s 20 years at the helm of the Falkirk SNP Group has been a rewarding, if at times, frustrating one. Under his leadership of Falkirk Council between 2001 and 2007 much was achieved and the district moved forward at a pace never seen before or since. His political skills and vision for Falkirk will be missed as he returns to the back benches.”
Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson said: David has been a brilliant leader of our council group. He took the group into administration during which time he demonstrated a real vision for the Falkirk Council area. In this year’s council elections he helped lead a campaign that resulted in the SNP getting more votes across the Falkirk area than any other party, for the first time.He will be a tough act to follow.”
Council leader Craig Martin admitted he was surprised by the news. He said: “Obviously I would not agree with his politics, but have got to say I do recognise the contribution David has made over many years. He works hard representing his party and the people in his ward and think it will be difficult for the SNP on Falkirk Council to find a leader of equal stature.”
The election to find Mr Alexander’s successor will be concluded on June 11.