Page last updated at 17:22 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 18:22 UK

In full: Brown and Cairns letters

Here is the full text of the resignation letter from David Cairns, who has quit as Scotland Office minister, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown's reply:

Dear Gordon

As someone who has never uttered a public word of criticism of our Labour Government, far less ever cast a vote against it in the years that I have been an MP, the concept of loyalty to my Party and our Leader is at the very heart of my political beliefs.

As such, the greatest privilege in my life has been to serve as a Labour Minister.

For me it is an article of faith that the worst day of a Labour Government is better than the best day of a Tory or SNP one.

This has been borne out by the tremendous progress that we have seen over the past 11 years in communities like my own in Inverclyde where regeneration is replacing years of decay, caused in large measure by destructive Conservative policies.

This is why I got into politics and why loyalty is a price well worth paying.

Yet despite our achievements, if surveys of public opinion and recent by-elections are to be believed, we find ourselves in a position where we appear to have fallen well behind a Tory opposition of quite breathtaking shallowness with no answers to the challenges that our country faces, and an SNP administration that has betrayed pensioners, students, home-owners and is decimating the voluntary sector.

Of course Governments in all countries are facing problems and it would be disingenuous to argue otherwise, but this is not the only challenge we face.

It was in this context that some colleagues requested nomination forms for a leadership contest.

When asked my opinion I counselled against this as I argued that it could only lead to further division and internal wrangling.

Nevertheless they went ahead, their names found their way into the public domain, and, to my dismay, the current crisis began.

However it is the response to this action that has caused me most unhappiness.

Rather than seizing the opportunity to open out to the broader party membership a discussion that is being held in private, our response as a government has been to suggest that these were the actions of a tiny number of disaffected people who have taken leave of their senses, are part of some larger plot and are entirely unrepresentative of the PLP.

These were among the more charitable responses.

I do not believe any of these things to be the case, though I understand the frustration of those good comrades who hold a different point of view.

In any event the debate is now on.

The issue of leadership and direction are being discussed and argued over, and to go on denying it is hardly credible.

I wish it were otherwise.

To that end I believe that the time has come to take the bull by the horns and allow a leadership debate to run its course.

I know that it is incompatible to hold this view and to remain a serving minister, and although it had not been my intention to resign, I have reluctantly concluded that it is the only honourable course of action left open.

Yours sincerely

David Cairns

Member of Parliament for Inverclyde

Dear David,

It is with regret that I accept your resignation.

Firstly, let me thank you for the many years of fine service which you have given to both the party and the government on both sides of the border. Your contribution to the Scotland Office has been particularly welcome at a time when it is vital that the modern day case for the United Kingdom, and Scotland's part in it, is properly made.

As you know, the world is facing a time of economic upheaval. I believe it is vital that we as a Government, and as a country, stand together in the face of these difficult times and concentrate all our efforts on helping the British people to come through them. I am therefore disappointed by your decision to leave the government, and I do not agree with you that this is the time at which the Labour Party should be focused on internal debates.

I will always respect the views of others both in the party and the government but believe that both function best when we show unity.

Gordon Brown

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