The race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s first minister is now under way – but nobody has officially thrown their hat into the ring yet.
Ms Sturgeon announced her resignation during a press conference in Edinburgh at her official residence, Bute House, on Tuesday.
The 52-year-old said it had been “the very best job in the world”, but that she believed part of “serving well would be to know almost instinctively when the time is right” to step down.
Speaking to reporters, the longest serving and first woman first minister confirmed she would stay in post until somebody else takes over and remain as an MSP until at least the next Holyrood election.
The attention now turns to who will become Ms Sturgeon’s successor as leader of the SNP, which she has been at the helm of since 2014.
The party will announce the process for electing a new leader over the coming days.
In her resignation speech, Ms Sturgeon said her party has an “array of talent” ready to follow her.
Early possible contenders to become her successor include current deputy leader of the SNP Keith Brown, the SNP’s finance and economy secretary Kate Forbes, the party’s current constitution, culture and external affairs secretary Angus Robertson, the SNP’s health secretary Humza Yousaf and Scotland’s current deputy first minister John Swinney.
The SNP’s newly elected Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, who replaced Ian Blackford following his resignation, appeared to rule himself out of the contest on Wednesday evening.
He told Sky News he was “not interested” in becoming the leader of the SNP, adding: “It’s my firm view – and I’ve made this clear in a few interviews today – it is my strong view that the next leader of our party should have the ability to serve as the first minister of Scotland.
“Therefore, it’s incumbent upon one of my excellent colleagues at Holyrood to step forward and to become the next leader of the SNP and the next prime minister in Scotland.”
As an MP and not a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Mr Flynn could currently only replace Ms Sturgeon as SNP leader – and not as Scotland’s first minister.
But there is precedent for an MP to lead a Scottish party after Douglas Ross took over as head of the Scottish Tories in 2020.
Mr Ross’s predecessor, Ruth Davidson, deputised for him at First Minister’s Questions before he was able to take a seat in the Scottish Parliament himself at the 2021 election.
The SNP’s president Michael Russell said the race to replace Ms Sturgeon will be a “contested” election and that the party’s national executive committee will meet soon to discuss a timetable for the leadership race.
Ms Sturgeon’s resignation follows a series of political challenges in recent months as her government sought to push through gender reforms, only for them to be blocked by Westminster.
She insisted the row surrounding a transgender double rapist being sent to a women’s jail “wasn’t the final straw”.
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SNP MP Joanna Cherry, a long-standing critic of the gender recognition reforms, called for “reform and healing” in her party, and asked for it to react to the resignation of Ms Sturgeon in “a way that is beneficial to the country and the cause of independence”.
She also called for a “neutral caretaker CEO” to take over from Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell.
Further afield, a former US president bid Ms Sturgeon “good riddance” to a “failed woke extremist”.
Donald Trump said in a statement: “Good riddance to failed woke extremist Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland!
“This crazed leftist symbolizes everything wrong with identity politics.
“Sturgeon thought it was okay to put a biological man in a women’s prison, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Sturgeon fought for a ‘Gender Recognition Reform Bill’ that would have allowed 16-year-old children to change their gender without medical advice.
“I built the greatest golf properties in the world in Scotland, but she fought me all the way, making my job much more difficult.
“The wonderful people of Scotland are much better off without Sturgeon in office!”
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Meanwhile, following the announcement of Ms Sturgeon’s departure, tennis star Sir Andy Murray posted a tweet saying: “Interesting vacancy. Was looking to get into politics when I finish playing.”
Alongside both a winking and a laughing emoji, Ms Sturgeon jokingly replied: “I know I said I wouldn’t endorse anyone as my successor, but….”