SNP MSP Ash Regan has released a statement explaining her “difficult” decision to quit as a Scottish Government minister over the GRA Bill.

The Edinburgh Eastern representative suddenly stepped down from her role as community safety minister before MSPs debated the first stage of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill on Thursday night.

In her resignation letter to the First Minister, she said her “conscience” could not allow her to back the proposed changes.

Responding to the former minister, Nicola Sturgeon said Regan had never approached her or the Social Justice Secretary to raise concerns around Gender Recognition Reform or the whipped vote.

READ MORE: RECAP: Updates from Holyrood as GRA debate leads to minister's resignation

After the vote overwhelmingly passed – by 88 for yes to 33 for no, with four abstentions – Regan put out a longer comment on why she made her decision.

She said: “I have today taken the difficult decision to resign from my position as minister for community safety as my conscience would not allow me to vote with the Government this evening. I have greatly valued my time in government and regret that I am not able to continue that work.

“I voted against the Gender Recognition Reform Bill at stage one as the issues of concern that I have held and raised for some time have not been addressed as yet.

“I am not against reform per se, however, I cannot support any legislation that may have negative implications for the safety and dignity of women and girls.

“I have long believed that principles in politics are important and that is the case especially when it is difficult.

“I will continue to support my constituents as their representative and continue to make the strong case for Scottish independence.”

A total of seven SNP MSPs broke with the whip to vote against the bill: Stephanie Callaghan, Fergus Ewing, Kenneth Gibson, Ruth Maguire, John Mason, Michelle Thomson and Regan.

Two SNP MSPs abstained, Annabelle Ewing and Jim Fairlie.