Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric, is to resign in the wake of allegations of inappropriate behaviour, it has emerged.

There was no official confirmation of the news, which comes just a day after the claims by three priests and a former priest first surfaced.

Cardinal O'Brien said he would not be joining the conclave to choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, saying: "I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focussed on me - but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor."