FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said there is "debate to be had" over the future of the monarchy following the controversy surrounding Prince Andrew's relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

The prince stepped down from public duties after mounting pressure in the wake of a BBC Newsnight interview about the friendship.

Following the airing of the episode Andrew faced criticism for showing a lack of empathy towards the victims of his late friend, who took his own life in prison earlier this year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. 

Speaking on ITV News At 10 last night, Sturgeon said a debate about the monarchy should not be a distraction from Epstein's victims. However, when asked if the issue made her consider whether the monarchy is fit for purpose, she replied: "I think it raises a number of questions.

"I think there is a debate to be had about the longer term future of the monarchy, one of the things though in the context of Prince Andrew that I feel very strongly about is that a debate about the monarchy shouldn't be a distraction from Epstein's victims and how they now get whatever justice they can get and get the truth and the ability to move on.

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"And I think while, yes, there is a debate to be had about the former, I don't think it should become conflated with that or be used in any way to sort of take attention from that."

A spokesman for the SNP said: "SNP policy is to keep the monarchy in an independent Scotland.

"The First Minister was reflecting the general discussions that have taken place in recent weeks on issues such as the size of the monarchy.

"The FM shares the admiration that the Queen is held in across the UK and has no intention of changing of SNP policy."