WILLIE Rennie has stepped down as leader of the Scottish Lib Dems

The shock exit from the leadership role comes after the party only returned four MSPs during this years Scottish Parliament election in May. 

Rennie, 53, MSP for North East Fife, said in his resignation that it was time for a "fresh face" to take over the party. 

Rennie has been in the role for over a decade, and politicians from across Scotland, including the First Minister, paid tribute to him on social media this afternoon. 

In a statement Rennie said: “After eleven elections and referendums over ten years and a global pandemic, I have decided to stand aside as Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

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“I have always believed that politics can be a vehicle to tackle the big issues and transform the lives of the people we are elected to serve.  

“That’s why we have championed the case for better mental health services, world class schools and investment for early years education

“Ours was the lone but important voice speaking out against the centralisation of Scotland's police and for a more liberal justice system.  

“We moved the debate and delivered change so that many more people can now achieve their potential."

The National:

Rennie's resignation comes after the party lost their regional North East seat during the 2021 election. Maggie Chapman from the Scottish Greens was elected to the seat, as the LibDem vote share was too low. 

Due to a low number of MSPs, falling below the Scottish Greens, the LibDems lost out on representation on key Scottish Parliament committees including health. 

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the LibDem MSP for Edinburgh Western, has long been tipped as a likely successor.

The BBC's Nick Eardley reported on Twitter that Cole-Hamilton is "likely to be new leader uncontested".

The statement continues: “Standing up for Scotland’s place in the UK and in Europe is second nature to us. The divisive debates that have dominated our country over these issues have inflicted damage within families, communities and the economy.     

“Scotland deserves a strong progressive alternative to the twin nationalisms represented by the SNP and Conservatives. They polarise and divide Scotland when we should unite to overcome the enormous challenges we face, from Covid-19 to climate change to the inequalities that continue to stain our society. 

READ MORE: LibDems fail in bid to stop Angus Robertson's Cabinet appointment

The National:

“Over the last decade there have been both gains and losses along the way, but I have enjoyed every effort. I love a good campaign. 

“But it is time for a fresh face to lead our party forward. The new leader will have my full support in writing the next bright chapter of the Scottish Liberal Democrats' story. 

“To the people of North East Fife, thank you for re-electing me in May. I will continue to work for you.  

“To the members of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, it has been a privilege to lead you. I look forward to campaigning with you again soon – we have elections to win.” 

The National:

It comes as politicians paid tribute to Rennie after the news spread on social media.

Nicola Sturgeon said:"Best wishes to Willie Rennie. Despite our political disagreements, I’ve always respected his commitment and decency.

"Political leadership takes its toll and, after 10 years at the helm of his party, I’m sure he is looking forward to new challenges."

LibDem MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur said: "Willie Rennie has been my friend for over 30 years & I’m very sorry to see him step down as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. 

"For the past ten years, he has led our party with energy, enthusiasm & skill, as well as his trademark good humour."

Scottish Labour's Monica Lennon said: "Have always admired the way Willie Rennie relentlessly campaigns for better mental health services.

"I really appreciate his support for Anne’s Law and @ChrScotland when others looked away. Sending my best wishes."