Scotland politics

Sturgeon: Hosie 'right' to stand down

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Media captionMs Sturgeon was speaking as she met SNP MPs at Westminster

Nicola Sturgeon has said that the SNP's deputy leader, Stewart Hosie, made the right decision to stand down in the wake of allegations about his affair with a journalist.

Ms Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scottish first minister, was speaking as she met the party's MPs in London.

Her visit came as the SNP starts its search for a successor to Mr Hosie, who will step down in the autumn.

Mr Hosie recently separated from his wife, Health Secretary Shona Robison.

It was subsequently reported that Mr Hosie had been involved in an affair with journalist Serena Cowdy, who was also said to have had an affair with SNP MP Angus MacNeil.

In a letter to Ms Sturgeon on Sunday, Mr Hosie apologised for "any hurt and upset" caused to friends, family and colleagues, and said he had found "intense scrutiny" of his private life "very difficult".

Image caption Angus MacNeil (left) and Stewart Hosie are both said to have had affairs with journalist Serena Cowdy

He also confirmed that he would not seek re-election as deputy leader - a job he won 18 months ago following a contest with Scottish government ministers Keith Brown and Angela Constance.

Nominations for his replacement are open until early August, and Mr Hosie will remain as the MP for Dundee East and as the party's deputy leader at Westminster.

Ms Sturgeon - a close friend of both Ms Robison and Mr Hosie - told the BBC: "Stewart has been a great deputy leader of the SNP, and I am sorry he will not be deputy leader after our conference in the autumn.

"But he has taken a decision that in the interests of his family and his health it is right that he steps down, and I support him in that decision. I think in all the circumstances he is making the right decision."

'Difficult circumstances'

Asked if Mr Hosie should also stand down from his Westminster role, Ms Sturgeon said: "I don't think that's the case.

"I think we've moved on and moved on quite some distance from the sense that personal issues, issues relating to someone's private marriage and private life necessarily affect someone's ability to do their job. I think Stewart's done the right thing in difficult circumstances."

The first minister insisted Mr Hosie had taken the decision to stand down himself, saying: "Stuart absolutely made the decision. I spoke to him yesterday morning. At his instigation he telephoned me yesterday morning and told me that he had come to the conclusion that he wanted to resign as deputy leader."

Image copyright Scottish government
Image caption Ms Sturgeon met new London Mayor Sadiq Khan at City Hall

Her visit to London also saw Ms Sturgeon campaign on the "progressive case" for EU membership alongside Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Green MP Caroline Lucas.

UK Chancellor George Osborne warned on Monday morning that leaving the EU would tip the UK into a year-long recession, with up to 820,000 jobs lost within two years.

Ms Sturgeon, who supports EU membership, has criticised the so-called Project Fear tactics of the Remain campaign, and told the BBC she would rather focus on the "positive reasons to stay in the EU".

'Unfettered control'

These included the single market of 500 million people and social, employment and health and safety protections such as maternity rights and paid holiday entitlement.

She added: "These I think are better guaranteed by being part of the European Union than they would be if a Westminster government had unfettered control over them".

Supporters of Brexit have argued that the Scottish Parliament would be handed a raft of new powers over areas such as fishing and agriculture if the UK left the EU.

And they have dismissed Mr Osborne's claims about the potential economic impact as "more propaganda" from the Remain side, which it claimed was "rattled".

Former Chancellor Lord Lawson accused the government of trying to "scare the pants" off voters, while Brexit-supporting economist Patrick Minford said the assessment ignored all the "upsides" from leaving, including the money saved from not being a member of the Common Agricultural Policy and not having to abide by EU regulation.

The first minister also met newly-elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Monday morning, where they discussed issues including the EU referendum, education initiatives and the importance of building economic connections between Scotland and London.

Ms Sturgeon said she looked forward to working with Mr Khan to develop a "stronger working relationship between London and Scotland".