NICOLA Sturgeon is passing the baton onto her successor at a crucial time for the Yes movement – with new ideas desperately needed to kickstart the push for independence.

It is fair to say that the SNP’s independence strategy currently lies in tatters.

Having lost its crunch Supreme Court gamble over whether Holyrood could hold its own referendum following repeated kickbacks from the UK Government, things look bleak for the Yes campaign.

If all had gone well at the Supreme Court, Ms Sturgeon could have been gearing up to hold a re-run of the 2014 referendum in eight months’ time. The mood music in the Yes movement would have been on a huge high and activists would have been on a battle footing.

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Instead, the SNP’s plan B, to treat the next UK general election as a de facto referendum, is the only current way forward. That might change at SNP conference next month, particularly with a new leadership imminent.

As it stands, that is the strategy whoever replaces Ms Sturgeon will be left with. Not the kindest parting gift, but one born from desperation.

Ms Sturgeon’s ultimate goal when she took office was to deliver independence. She has not got the referendum she fought for and has ultimately failed to deliver that pledge.

It was clear that the First Minister was not convinced by a blueprint to treat the next general election as a de facto referendum, which would open negotiations with the UK Government for Scotland to leave the Union.

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She was visibly uncomfortable answering journalists’ questions on the idea. That would not be out of character for someone with a legal background given the lack of legal certainty over the strategy.

She has always made clear that her preferred strategy was for a referendum.

Speaking at Bute House yesterday, Ms Sturgeon stressed that she has "never pretended it is perfect" to pursue a de facto poll strategy.

The First Minister claimed that her resignation will "free the SNP to choose the path it believes to be the right one", without "worrying about the perceived implications for my leadership".

With the Yes movement stuck in the mud, the next first minister will need to bring forward a new direction in the foggiest circumstances since the 2014 referendum.

The Scottish Government and Ms Sturgeon have exhausted calling for a referendum – so new ideas are desperately needed.

Domestic troubles for Ms Sturgeon have dented support for independence, if recent polls are to be believed. But you could argue that support for Ms Sturgeon’s leadership of the Yes movement has peaked.

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A big challenge for whoever takes over is how much of the support for independence is wedded to Ms Sturgeon’s impressive popularity.

With the lack of an obvious answer on pushing forward the Yes movement, Ms Sturgeon’s successor could be taking on a poisoned chalice, and that could limit their shelf-life.

It is unclear whether one of the frontrunners, Kate Forbes, actually wants to lead her party and the Yes movement – and she might decide this is not her moment.

With no clear successor and no clear independence strategy, whoever takes the reins from Ms Sturgeon has an unenviable uphill job on their hands to get the Yes campaign back on track.