Nicola Sturgeon has resigned as Scottish First Minister.

The Scottish National Party leader stepped down at a press conference in Edinburgh today.

Ms Sturgeon has served as Scottish First Minister for more than eight years, taking over from Alex Salmond following the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum.

She is the country’s longest-serving first minister.

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Resigning, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am proud to stand here as the first female and longest serving incumbent of this office, and I am very proud of what has been acheived in my years in Bute House.

"Part of serving well is to know when the time is right to make way for someone else and, when that time comes, to have the courage to do so.

"In my head and in my heart, I know that the time is now. It is right for me, for my party and for the country."

Ms Sturgeon added that her decision was "not a reaction to short term pressures."

She will continue to serve as First Minister until a successor is elected.

SNP MP Stewart McDonald described Nicola Sturgeon as “the finest public servant of the devolution age” amid reports of her expected departure as Scottish First Minister.

He said: “Her public service, personal resilience and commitment to Scotland is unmatched, and she has served our party unlike anyone else. She will be an enormous loss as First Minister and SNP leader. Thank you!”

 

Alison Thewliss, the SNP MP for Glasgow Central and the party’s home affairs spokesperson, said she was “gutted” at news of Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation.

She tweeted: “Absolutely gutted about this. Nicola has been an incredible leader.”

The First Minister has been mired in controversy in recent months as her Government sought to push through gender reforms, only for them to be blocked by the UK Government.

And recent weeks have seen her forced to deal with the housing of transgender prisoners in women’s facilities.

Rising to power unopposed after the ill-fated independence referendum in 2014, Nicola Sturgeon took over from Alex Salmond, the mentor with whom she would come into conflict in the years to come over the handling of sexual harassment allegations made against him.

But the First Minister stands down without realising her key political mission – independence for Scotland.

Her party will meet next month to discuss the holding of treating the next UK election as a “de facto referendum”, with more than 50% of the vote being considered a mandate to begin negotiations for Scotland to become an independent country.