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Carmichael could quit Westminster in 2020

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael may consider bowing out of politics at the end of this decade having been re-selected to contest the seat at the 2015 general election.

Carmichael has represented Shetland and Orkney since first winning the seat in 2001, and is currently part of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government.

He has been a member of the cabinet since replacing Michael Moore as secretary of state for Scotland in the autumn, placing him at the forefront of the independence debate ahead of September’s referendum.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald at the weekend, he admitted that – should he win re-election – he was “thinking about quitting Westminster” at the end of that term as he “can’t be in politics forever”.

Carmichael worked in the hotel trade before becoming a lawyer, and said he felt he might have a “fourth career” in him come 2020. By then he could have served nearly two decades in parliament and will be nearly 55 years old.

“I’ve always said that this is not going to be a job for life,” he told Monday’s BBC Radio Shetland, “and no politician should ever regard it as a job for life. There is a real danger that, when you’re in politics, it is possible to stay too long.”

The end of the next parliament “might be the time, and I stress the might, that I would be looking at doing something else”, he continued. “But seven years down the line, there’s an awful lot of things that can change between now and then.”

Following yesterday’s newspaper interview, the SNP accused Carmichael of having a “semi-detached attitude” towards his role as Scottish secretary. He poured scorn on those claims, saying that “if it weren’t so serious it would be laughable”.

Carmichael said his ministerial role put him “at the beating heart of Scottish politics” and he was often putting in 18-hour days because he was “enthused” by the position: “I wouldn’t be doing that if I were lacking commitment.”

The MP has been unanimously chosen by the local Liberal Democrat party to fight the seat in May 2015. It has been a Lib Dem stronghold since the 1950s, but Carmichael expects a “lively contest” and said he would not take the electorate’s continued support for granted.

“It’s going to be different from previous elections because we will be defending a record in government,” Carmichael said.

He has come in for criticism over his involvement in the coalition government, which has pushed through a raft of unpopular policies in order to balance the books, including huge cuts to welfare spending.

But Carmichael pointed to “a list of achievements that have benefited the people of Orkney and Shetland” – including a five pence cut in fuel duty, the retention of Shetland’s coastguard station and emergency tug, and securing a £10 million contribution from the UK Treasury towards the SIC’s £40 million housing debt.

He said it was a privilege to have the chance to continue serving the people of the Northern Isles, vowing that if he holds onto the seat he will “work hard on behalf of all of the residents of our area, regardless of political views”.

Chairman of the Liberal Democrats in Shetland, Theo Nicolson, said he was “delighted” with the unanimous decision.

“Alistair has been an excellent servant to the people of Orkney and Shetland in his 13 years as our member of parliament,” he said.

“The next 16 months are of huge importance for Scotland and the United Kingdom. I know that the Liberal Democrats in Shetland are looking forward to a good contest and we are hopeful for a positive result in 2015.”