Nicola Sturgeon has resigned as First Minister of Scotland after close to nine years at Bute House.

She called a surprise news conference this morning to announce her decision, stating that she would remain in post until a successor is appointed.

Sturgeon said: "Being First Minister of Scotland is, in my admittedly biased opinion, the very best job in the world. It's a privilege beyond measure, one that has sustained and inspired me in good times and in the toughest hours of my toughest days.

"I am proud to stand here as the first female and longest serving incumbent of this office and I'm very proud of what has been achieved in the years I've been in Bute House.



"However, since my very first moments in the job I have believed that part of serving well would be to know, almost instinctively, when the time is right to make way for someone else and when that time came to have the courage to do so even if to people across the country and in my party it might seem too soon.

"In my head and in my heart, I know that time is now, that it is right for me, my party and the country so today I am announcing my intention to step down as leader of my party."

Read More: Just two weeks ago Nicola Sturgeon said there was still 'plenty in the tank'

She told reporters that her decision was "not a reaction to short-term pressures".

Ms Sturgeon said: “Of course there are difficult issues confronting the government just now, but when is that ever not the case?

“I have spent almost three decades in frontline politics, a decade-and-a-half on the top or second-top rung of government.

“When it comes to navigating choppy waters, resolving seemingly intractable issues, or soldiering on when walking away would be the simpler option, I have plenty of experience to draw on.

“So if this was just a question of my ability or my resilience to get through the latest period of pressure I wouldn’t be standing here today, but it’s not.

“This decision comes from a deeper and longer-term assessment. I know it may seem sudden, but I have been wrestling with it, albeit with oscillating levels of intensity for some weeks.

“Essentially, I’ve been trying to answer two questions: Is carrying on right for me? And more importantly is me carrying on right for the country, for my party and for the independence cause I have devoted my life to?”

Sturgeon has been First Minister since being elected unopposed as SNP leader in the wake of Alex Salmond's resignation following the lost independence referendum in 2014.

She guided the party to an unprecedented 56 out of 59 Scottish seats at the subsequent Westminster election and secured a second term at Holyrood the following year.

The SNP were once again the largest party at the 2021 Holyrood election, gaining a seat but once again falling one short of a majority.

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They agreed a power sharing deal with the Scottish Green Party to form a government.

Sturgeon saw a bid to hold a second referendum on independence repeatedly rebuffed by Westminster, and the Scottish Government lost a legal challenge to hold one at the Supreme Court which ruled that it was not within Holyrood's power to hold a consultative ballot.

She announced that her party would contest the next Westminster election as a 'de facto referendum', with a special SNP conference to be held next month to decide on whether that will be put into action then or at the next Holyrood election.

In recent weeks Sturgeon has faced a backlash following the passing of the Gender Recognition Reform Act, which was blocked by the UK government using a section 30 order.

The bill was passed with the support of Labour, the Scottish Greens and the Lib Dems but has been criticised in some quarters for allegedly infringing on single-sex spaces.

The issue was thrust to the forefront in the wake of the Isla Bryson case in which a rapist identified themselves as trans and sparked a political storm.

Sturgeon made clear she is "not leaving politics" despite stepping down, adding that she will continue to fight for Scottish independence.

Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney, one of several possible candidates who could succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP, has thanked the First Minister after her decision to step down.

“I am very sorry (Ms Sturgeon) has decided to step down as First Minister and (the SNP) leader,” he tweeted.

“She has given outstanding leadership to our country, Government and Party.

“As the first female, and longest serving First Minister, she has achieved much for Scotland. Minimum unit pricing of alcohol, expansion of early learning, measures to tackle domestic violence, delivery of The Promise and crucially, leadership through Covid, are just some.

“For our Party, she has delivered breathtaking electoral success, winning every election during her leadership, and securing two Scottish Parliament victories.

“It has been my privilege to support her as Deputy First Minister. She has my warmest good wishes for the future and heartfelt thanks for all that she has done for Scotland, for the cause of Independence and the Scottish National Party.”

Mr Swinney will not take over the role in the interim, with Ms Sturgeon to remain in situ until a new leader is elected.

Closing her speech, the First Minister said:“To the people of Scotland, to all of the people of Scotland, whether you’ve voted for me or not, please know that being your First Minister has been the privilege of my life. Nothing, absolutely nothing I do in future will ever come anywhere close. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.”