Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery John Swinney has announced that he will leave government at the end of March when a new First Minister is appointed.
The statement from Mr Swinney, 58, will leave the SNP without two of its driving forces when he follows Nicola Sturgeon out of frontline government.
In a letter to Nicola Sturgeon, who announced her own departure last month, Mr Swinney said it had been an “honour to serve Scotland”.
Mr Swinney has been an SNP MSP since the beginning of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
In his letter he said that in government he had “tried to listen carefully to different views and be open to the ideas and thoughts of the people of Scotland”.
He has been Ms Sturgeon’s deputy since she became first minister in 2014 and is currently standing in as Finance Secretary while Kate Forbes completes her maternity leave.
He was leader of the party for four years from 2000 to 2004 and has held cabinet roles including education secretary and finance secretary as well as serving as the country’s deputy first minister since 2014.
He was a favourite among the SNP membership to succeed Ms Sturgeon but ruled himself out of the running, saying he wished to “create the space” for “fresh perspective” within the SNP.
Ms Sturgeon paid tribute to Mr Swinney’s “deep care and attention to the wellbeing of our nation” and said she could not have wished for a better “partner in government”.