NOMINATIONS have officially opened in the contest to replace Willie Rennie as leader of the Scottish LibDems.

The North East Fife MSP is stepping down after a decade in the top job.

His decision comes after his party won just four seats in May’s Holyrood election.

That was down from the five MSPs it returned in 2016, and marked its worst result at the Scottish Parliament – with the party having had 17 MSPs after both the 1999 and 2003 elections, when it was in coalition government with Labour.

None of the three other MSPs have yet indicated if they will stand for the job, but Alex Cole-Hamilton, currently the party's health spokesman, is considered the strong favourite to succeed Rennie.

Those seeking the leadership have until August 20 to secure their nomination, with candidates requiring the backing of a minimum of 30 ordinary members from more than five local branches.

In the meantime, deputy leader Alistair Carmichael will serve as interim leader.

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Party convener Sheila Ritchie said: "Willie Rennie has been a fantastic leader for the past 10 years. I know all of our members will join with me in thanking him for his hard work, dedication, and patience.

"We now move on to a new and exciting stage for the party, the election of a new leader.

"Nominations will open on Tuesday July 20 and close on Friday August 20."

Rennie, who will remain MSP for North East Fife, announced he was stepping down as leader "after 11 elections and referendums over 10 years and a global pandemic".

He said at the time: "Over the last decade, there have been both gains and losses along the way, but I have enjoyed every effort.

"I do love a good campaign, but it's time for a fresh face to lead our party forward."