Kate Forbes said it is “highly, highly unlikely” she would stand again to be SNP leader, if she is not elected this time around.
Speaking to The Herald newspaper, Forbes, who is running against Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan to replace Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, said her current attempt to get the role is “probably the one opportunity”.
The finance minister said she would support the new party leader whatever the outcome when the results are revealed on Monday, March 27.
The MSP, who is currently on maternity leave, also said there has been “turmoil” in the SNP over the past few days.
It comes after the resignation of Peter Murrell, who quit with immediate effect on Saturday following a row over the party’s membership numbers.
His departure came shortly after that of media chief Murray Foote, who said there had been a “serious impediment” to his role.
Forbes said: “I think it would be unlikely that I would come back in the future. I will continue to support the party and I’ll support the leader, but I feel like I’ve made my campaign clear.
“People know who they’re voting for. It’s up to members to determine which of us is First Minister, but I think it’s unlikely that I would stand again. You can never say never, but I think it’s highly, highly unlikely.”
The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, added: “I think this, for me, is probably the one opportunity.
“We need change in this election, and if we don’t get change, then I think it’s going to be really challenging for the party in the future.
“I’ll continue to support the party, but I think it unlikely that I would stand again.”
Forbes, who is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, also said she would work on Sundays as “being first minister is 24/7”.