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Chief political correspondent John Morrison
"The first minister paid tribute to Sam Galbraith's exceptional service and commitment"
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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 11:52 GMT
Galbraith announces political exit
Sam Galbraith and Henry McLeish
Mr Galbraith offered his resignation to Henry McLeish
Scotland's Environment Minister Sam Galbraith has announced his resignation due to health reasons.

The MP and MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, 55, had a lung transplant 11 years ago and said his decison was intended to protect his health.

He has relinquished his post within the Scottish Executive and said he intends to stand down from his constituency duties whenever the date of the general election is confirmed.

Mr Galbraith said the death of his close friend former First Minister Donald Dewar drove home to him that he would have to start reconsidering his position.

The late First Minister Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar: Close friend
Mr Dewar died in October last year from a brain haemorrhage, at the age of 63.

Mr Galbraith said: "Donald and I were always clear when we came to the Scottish Parliament that after two years he and I would stand down to hand over to the next generation.

"It became clear after what happened to Donald that I should not go the same way as Donald."

He said he was a "very privileged man" to serve in the first Labour Government for almost 20 years and the first Scottish Cabinet.

Speaking outside Bute House in Edinburgh, after a meeting with First Minister Henry McLeish, he said his time spent as a minister had been "great times indeed, some of the best days of my life".

He said he was sorry to be going, but added: "I am going to retire from frontline politics but I will never retire from the fight for social justice."

Responding to Mr Galbraith's letter of resignation, Mr McLeish said: "It is with great sadness that I accept your resignation, although I fully understand your reasons for leaving at this time to protect your health.

His contribution to Scottish politics and the to the Labour Party will be much missed

Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Over the last decade your service and commitment have been quite exceptional - the more remarkable given the background to your lung transplant."

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "Sam has been a good friend and colleague over the years.

"He was a fine minister, particularly at health where he brought to the job years of first-hand experience at the highest levels of the NHS, as well as an abundance of commonsense.

"I can fully understand why Sam, at this stage of his life, wants to spend more time with his family, although his contribution to Scottish politics and to the Labour Party will be much missed."

It was understood that Mr McLeish would not seek to appoint a direct replacement for Mr Galbraith.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: Paid tribute to colleague
Instead it was thought he would distribute Mr Galbraith's responsibilities for environment, sport and culture among existing ministers.

Mr Galbraith had served as health minister in the Scottish Office prior to devolution and then went on to serve as education minister, handling highly contentious issues including the repeal of Section 28 and the exams crisis.

He moved to environment, sport and culture last year.

Education Minister Jack McConnell paid tribute to Mr Galbraith.

He said: "Sam has been an excellent colleague and has obviously decided to put his family first at this particular time of his life and his decision is something we all respect and we wish him all the best."

Deputy First Minister and Scottsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jim Wallace said: "I fully respect Sam's decision, although he will be missed from our ranks of ministers.

'Trenchant differences'

"Although I am of a different political persuasion to Sam, he has been a good colleague in cabinet and is a Scottish politician I have always respected.

"I wish him a long and happy retirement. He genuinely will be spending more time with his family."

Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney said: "The SNP have had our trenchant differences with Sam Galbraith over the years, but we all recognise that politics is a demanding life.

Brian Monteith
Brian Monteith: "Beleaguered record"
"If Mr Galbraith considers that now is the time to devote more time to his personal life and health than politics, then that is the right judgement for him to make.

"We wish Mr Galbraith and his family well."

Scottish Tory education spokesman Brian Monteith acknowledged Mr Galbraith's "lengthy and distinguished career".

"But it is a sad fact that the Scots people will remember him for his beleaguered record as a Scottish Minister," he said.

"He presided over the worst crisis in Scottish education in living memory when the exam system collapsed, forced through the repeal of Section 28 without adequate safeguards, turned a blind eye to the financial problems of the new National Stadium and redirected millions of pounds aimed at reducing class sizes to bailing out Scottish Opera."

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See also:

13 Dec 00 | Scotland
Galbraith survives confidence vote
14 Aug 00 | Scotland
Dewar backs education minister
07 Sep 00 | Scotland
Galbraith accused over exams powers
29 Oct 00 | Scotland
McConnell moves in cabinet reshuffle
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