Nicola Sturgeon yesterday chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government's Cabinet for the final time as first minister.

The winner of the contest to succeed her as SNP leader will be revealed on Monday afternoon.

They will then face a vote in the Scottish Parliament the next day before being confirmed as First Minister.

Ms Sturgeon has served in the role since November 2014 and as a cabinet minister and deputy first minister under her predecessor Alex Salmond since 2007.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf was the only one of the three leadership candidates to attend the meeting at the first minister's Bute House residence in Edinburgh.

Another candidate, Kate Forbes, is still officially on maternity leave from her Finance Secretary role. However, she visited the Scottish Parliament yesterday for the first time since the birth of her daughter in August.

Final statement

Ms Sturgeon will face opposition leaders at First Minister's Questions for the last time tomorrow, before making a final statement to MSPs.

Her last official engagement as first minister will be on Friday.

Ms Sturgeon has not officially backed any of the candidates to replace her, but Mr Yousaf is widely assumed to be her preferred choice.

The leadership contest has exposed deep divisions within the SNP, with both Ms Forbes and the third candidate Ash Regan casting doubt over the fairness and transparency of the election process.

Ms Sturgeon's husband, Peter Murrell, was forced to quit as the party's chief executive on Saturday over his role in the media being given misleading information about the number of members who are eligible to elect its next leader.

The party had consistently claimed to have more than 100,000 members, but was eventually forced to admit that the true figure was 72,000 - meaning more than 50,000 have left since its membership peaked at 125,000 in 2019.

'Growing pains'

Ms Sturgeon denied on Monday that the party was in a mess and insisted it was merely going through "growing pains" which she said were "necessary but difficult".

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that opposition parties said they had "thwarted" an attempt by the SNP to have first minister's questions cancelled next Thursday - which would have meant the new leader would not have to take questions in the Scottish Parliament until April 20 because of the Easter recess.

Minister for parliamentary business George Adam made the proposal to the presiding officer, but it was dropped in the face of criticism from rival parties.

Scottish Conservative chief whip Alexander Burnett claimed that the move was a "shameful attempt to hide the first minister from scrutiny" and pointed out that Ms Sturgeon took part in FMQs for the first time on November 20, 2014 - the day after becoming first minister.

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