NICOLA Sturgeon has announced that she will step down as First Minister after more than eight years in the role. 

But who will be in the running to replace Scotland's longest serving First Minister? 

Here are the most likely candidates to put their name forward. 

Angus Robertson 

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The current Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary and MSP for Edinburgh Central. 

First elected to the House of Commons as an MP in 2001, Robertson spent nearly a decade as the SNP's leader at Westminster from 2007 until losing his seat at the 2017 General Election. 

A fluent German speaker, he is known for his fondness for foreign diplomacy and will be seen by some as a favourite to take over the top job. 

Kate Forbes 

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Although currently on maternity leave, the 32-year-old Finance Secretary has made a big impression in the role since she took over in 2020 following Derek Mackay's resignation.

A recent poll by the Sunday Times, which found that 4 in 10 voters felt Nicola Sturgeon should step down immediately, also saw Forbes come out as the favourite to replace her as First Minister. 

While 69% answered "Don't know" when it comes to who should replace Sturgeon, Forbes received 7% of the vote - more than both Angus Robertson and John Swinney. 

John Swinney 

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A former leader of the SNP from 2000 to 2004 and the current Deputy First Minister. 

When it comes to experience nobody has more of a pedigree. He will be seen by many as a safe pair of hands. 

He is currently serving as Finance Secretary while Kate Forbes is on maternity leave.

Swinney first became an MP in 1997 before being elected to the first session of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. 

Humza Yousaf

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The 37-year old current Health Secretary has been an MSP since 2011. 

Having also served as Justice Secretary, Yousaf is no stranger to shouldering considerable political responsibility. 

If elected, he would become Scotland's first First Minister from a minority ethnic background. 

Keith Brown

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The current Deputy Leader of the SNP and a veteran of the Falklands War. 

Elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2007, Brown has held numerous ministerial roles during his time as an MSP and certainly has enough experience for the role. 

However, it is unclear whether Brown has leadership ambitions. 

Màiri McAllan

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The current Environment Secretary will be seen as a wildcard and at 30 years old, would be the youngest candidate in contention. 

A former special adviser to Nicola Sturgeon before becoming an MSP, McAllan has previously been tipped as a potential succesor.

However, she has the least amount of experience amongst those who could be in the running having only been elected to Holyrood in 2021. 

No clear favourite

When Alex Salmond stood down in the wake of the 2014 referendum, Nicola Sturgeon was the clear favourite to take over as First Minister. But no such obvious candidate exists now.

Sturgeon has said she will not step down immediately. So, the battle to be Scotland’s next First Minister is likely to occur over the following few months.

However, she has also said she would not express her preference for who "he or she is who will lead the country to independence.".

As such, without the backing of Scotland's biggest politician, it seems only time will tell who will emerge victorious.