NICOLA Sturgeon will not return to Holyrood this week amid growing speculation that she will quit as an MSP before the next Scottish election.

The former First Minister, who would attract huge media attention given recent developments in the SNP, will participate remotely instead.

Her spokesperson claimed it had “always” been her plan to stay away in order to leave the limelight to her successor Humza Yousaf.

However no date has been given for her return other than “the near future”.

The new First Minister will set out his vision for his premiership tomorrow.

Ms Sturgeon’s spokesperson said: "To ensure the focus of this week is on the new First Minister setting out his priorities for the people of Scotland, Ms Sturgeon has always intended to participate remotely and intends to return to Holyrood in the near future.”

However opposition parties suggested she was trying to evade scrutiny.

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Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “Try as she might to avoid the spotlight, it’s clear that the former First Minister is at the heart of the chaos engulfing the SNP.

“The failures and secrecy of the Sturgeon era are overshadowing Humza Yousaf.

“Nicola Sturgeon has a responsibility to represent her constituents in parliament regardless of the scrutiny she is under.”

The development comes a day after the Sunday Mail revealed a video of Ms Sturgeon telling the SNP’s ruling body in March 2021 there were no problems with the SNP’s finances.

The party’s finances had “never been stronger”, she insisted, implying she had been briefed on their detail, while warning colleagues not to question them in case it hurt donations.

A few weeks later, her husband Peter Murrell, then the party’s chief executive, loaned the SNP more than £107,000 because of “cash flow” problems.

The party’s then treasurer, MP Douglas Chapman, and others also quit over a lack of transparency.

In July 2021, Police Scotland launched an investigation into whether £660,000 raised by the party specifically to fight another independence referendum had been spent on other things.

On April 5 this year, Mr Murrell was arrested and questioned by officers as part of the same investigation before being released without charge.

The home he shares with Ms Sturgeon was also subjected to a two-day search.

It also emerged last week that the SNP’s auditors, Johnston Carmichael, quit last September and the party is struggling to find replacements.

There have been calls for Mr Yousaf to suspend Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell from the SNP.

The crisis means Ms Sturgeon is becoming a growing distraction for her party, and her presence at Holyrood would inevitably attract intense media attention. 

After she announced her resignation, Ms Sturgeon said she intended to sit on the backbenches and represent her constituents in Glasgow Southside.

However it may be difficult for her to do that in practice until the May 2026 election, leading to speculation that she will quit as an MSP before then, creating a byelection.

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Her majority in 2021 was 9,456, when she defeated Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s first priority should be to answer for her comments in the bombshell video released over the weekend, in which she claimed that SNP finances had never been in better shape – a matter of weeks before a police investigation was launched and her husband lent the party a six-figure sum because of ‘cash-flow’ issues. 

“It’s because of that misleading claim that there is huge media interest in the former First Minister – and only she can make that go away by fronting up. 

“Equally, Nicola Sturgeon has responsibilities as Glasgow Southside MSP. She cannot neglect her constituents’ needs just because she wants to avoid scrutiny. 

“If she is to work remotely, she must be a genuine and active participant in the parliamentary process. This can’t be an excuse for her to go into hiding.

“In the meantime, Humza Yousaf should suspend Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell from the SNP unless and until this matter is satisfactorily resolved.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said Ms Sturgeon must “face up to scrutiny”.

He said: “This simply isn’t good enough. Right now, we can’t focus on the priorities because of the silence and secrecy from the SNP high command. The nationalist psychodrama is undermining the credibility of the current government day after day.”