Angus Robertson has ruled out a bid to replace Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister in the SNP leadership election.
The constitution and external affairs secretary, who was thought to be among the frontrunners to succeed the outgoing FM, cited family reasons for his decision not to stand in the race for the top job at Holyrood.
He previously served as deputy leader, but said he could not take on “a huge commitment” as the father of two young children.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan are the only SNP MSP’s to announce their candidacy, with finance secretary Kate Forbes expected to follow suit this afternoon.
In a statement on Twitter, Robertson said it was “an honour” to serve under Nicola Sturgeon, adding it had been a “privilege” to receive endorsements from fellow party members.
“Since Nicola Sturgeon announced she is stepping down I have been encouraged by many to consider running for the SNP leadership and to become First Minister,” he said in a statement.
“It is a real privilege and honour for people to wish me to stand and I am very thankful for their trust.
“However, as the father of two very young children the time is not right for me and my family to take on such a huge commitment.
“I look forward to working with the next SNP leader and First Minister to deliver progressive policies and economic success for Scotland, and help secure Scottish independence within the European Union.”
Business Minister Ivan McKee said an announcement from the “hugely talented” Forbes could be expected on Monday during an appearance on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland.
SNP depute leader Keith Brown and Deputy First Minister John Swinney have ruled themselves out of the race, as have Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ukraine minister Neil Gray and environment minister Mairi McAllan.
Forbes, who is currently on maternity leave, has long been seen as a potential successor to the First Minister.
She was thrust into the limelight by having to step in and deliver the Scottish budget at the 11th hour in 2020 after her predecessor Derek Mackay resigned in disgrace.
But the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, who is a Free Church of Scotland member, could be at odds with the wider party – and current policy – on some social issues, including the hotly-debated gender reforms blocked by the UK Government.
Candidates have until Friday to secure 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches to secure their place on the ballot, with the new SNP leader being announced on March 27.
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