Nicola Sturgeon will step down as Scotland’s first minister and leader of the Scottish National party with no obvious successor, but here are some of the SNP figures currently considered potential frontrunners.

Kate Forbes, 32, cabinet secretary for finance and the economy, was seen as possible future first minister even before she ably delivered Scotland’s 2020 budget speech with just a few hours notice after her predecessor suddenly stepped down in a texting scandal.

However, some in the SNP wonder if Forbes’s strongly-held Christian faith and membership of the Free Church of Scotland, which holds highly traditional views on issues such as gay marriage, would make it difficult for her to lead an increasingly secular nation.

Angus Robertson, 53, cabinet secretary for the constitution, external affairs and culture, was the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Sturgeon in the hours after her resignation announcement.

A confident public performer well known to UK audiences from his time as SNP leader in Westminster until 2017, Robertson is a fluent German speaker and among the most internationally minded senior members of the party.

John Swinney, 58, deputy first minister and acting finance secretary, is considered among the SNP’s safest pairs of hands. But his stint as leader between 2000 and 2004 was miserable for both him and the party, marked by electoral setbacks and open division.

Humza Yousaf, 37, was in recent years considered one of the SNP’s brightest rising stars, but as health secretary since 2021 he has had to cope with a series of challenges, including the winter care crisis. Some colleagues think his political lustre has dimmed as a result.

Keith Brown, 61, cabinet secretary for justice and veterans, is the SNP’s deputy leader and one of its most experienced ministers. A former marine who fought in the 1982 Falklands War against Argentina, Brown could like Swinney be seen, however, as a representative of an older generation who might struggle to widen the party’s appeal among the young.

SNP members dissatisfied with Sturgeon’s strategy on independence would like to see a candidate from outside the cabinet. Some cite Stephen Flynn, 34, who was last year elected leader of the party at Westminster in what was perceived as a challenge to the Edinburgh leadership.

However, any SNP member of the UK parliament would have to set out a route to Holyrood to be a credible candidate for first minister.

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