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Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson resigns

First Minister Alex Salmond accepts resignation from the beleaguered Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change.

Resigned: The former Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson.

Stewart Stevenson has resigned as Scotland's transport minister following fierce criticism of his handling of the travel chaos caused by the extreme winter weather.

He said in a letter to First Minister Alex Salmond: "Although we put in place significant efforts to tackle the event, I feel that I could have done much more to ensure that members of the public who were caught up in a difficult and frightening set of circumstances were better informed of the situation.

"I deeply regret that and for that reason I feel I should step down."

Mr Salmond said he accepted the resignation "with great regret" in a written response to Mr Stevenson.

The First Minister said: "I understand your reasons for resigning but frankly I think it is wrong that you should have faced this situation.

"You have worked to ensure the preparedness of our transport network for winter weather.

"These plans have generally proved effective but on Monday we were faced by an unprecedented challenge."

Snow and ice brought much of Scotland to a standstill with traffic gridlock on busy motorways earlier this week.

The Banff and Buchan MSP apologised for a lack of preparation and on Thursday night met with the leader of the SNP government when he told him that he felt he should resign.

He wrote to Mr Salmond: "You kindly asked me to take Friday to consider whether that was the appropriate action to take. I took that time to think this through and I have decided to resign."

The First Minister will announce on Sunday December 12 who will assume Mr Stevenson's responsibilities for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, though John Swinney is believed to be overseeing the department in the interim.

Opposition parties at Holyrood called for Mr Stevenson to resign after many people caught out by the heavy snowfall were forced to spent the night in their vehicles.

A large stretch of the M8 motorway linking Glasgow and Edinburgh had to be closed for a considerable time.

Rail journeys were also severely disrupted by the freezing weather.

The transport minister was facing a vote of no confidence at the Scottish Parliament after rival MSPs denounced him as "bumbling" and described his handling of the weather data and the ensuing travel crisis as "incompetent" and a "a first-class cock up".

He told Holyrood in a statement on Thursday: "The fact of the matter is that, when the transport system grinds to a halt, and people are forced to spend the night in their cars, then something has clearly gone wrong.

"I regret this, and apologise for the failure to communicate the situation effectively to the many people affected on Monday when the extent of the problem became apparent."

He said: "Of course I am sorry that anyone should have to experience the gridlock and inconvenience of recent days, and in terms of the aspects of the problems that can be resolved by government, I accept that responsibility rests with me."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: "Scotland had lost confidence in the transport minister and it was only right that he should resign.

"The First Minister should not have stretched the issue out over the last week and acted more decisively at an earlier stage."

Commenting on the resignation, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott said: "The people Scotland deserve an awful lot better than they're getting at present from the SNP.

"The First Minister needs to stand up and take responsibility for the shambles his government is in."

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