FIRST Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has responded to Alex Salmond's decision to leave the party until he can "clear his name".

Former SNP leader Salmond said he resigned in order to deprive opponents of a line of attack, and to avoid internal party divisions, but hoped to rejoin at a later date.

READ: Alex Salmond's full statement on why he resigned from the SNP

It comes amid an internal investigation by the Scottish Government into sexual harassment allegations made against Salmond, which he has entirely denied.

READ MORE: Former SNP leader Alex Salmond resigns from the party

Below is the full statement released by Sturgeon in response to Salmond's resignation.


Statement from Nicola Sturgeon

I feel a huge sadness about this whole situation. Alex has been my friend and mentor for almost thirty years and his contribution to the SNP and the independence movement speaks for itself. While the decision to resign has been Alex’s alone, I understand why he has chosen to separate the current questions he is facing from the day to day business of the SNP and the ongoing campaign for independence.

These last few days have been incredibly difficult for the party and, I am sure, for those involved in the complaints that have been made to the Scottish Government. I appreciate that they will have been difficult for Alex too.

However, the hard fact remains that two complaints were received by the Scottish Government that could not be ignored or swept under the carpet. Complaints must be investigated without fear or favour, regardless of the seniority of the person involved.

I know party members will be upset by this news, just as I am. I also know there are many questions that can only be answered in the fullness of time. It is important now that any legal processes are allowed to take their course.

In the meantime, I agree with Alex that the cause of independence, to which both he and I have dedicated our entire lives, is bigger than any one individual. And the work we must do to achieve independence is more important now than ever.