NICOLA Sturgeon’s chief of staff is to leave politics when the First Minister steps down from the top job later this month.

Elizabeth Lloyd has worked with the SNP and Scottish Government for more than 20 years, serving as Sturgeon’s chief of staff since 2014.

However, the long-serving policy advisor has said that she is looking forward to a “leftfield” career change once the SNP’s leadership contest comes to a close.

The outgoing first minister thanked Lloyd for her work, writing on Twitter: "Liz has been by my side throughout my time as FM. Her advice, support, perspective, humour and sheer hard work has been indispensable to me.

"She is brilliant and I know she’ll go on to do great things. Thank you, Liz."

Announcing her departure from politics on LinkedIn, Lloyd said: “For nearly 20 years I’ve been lucky to have a job I love, working with a team of people dedicated to improving people’s lives across Scotland.

"It is now time to pursue new opportunities - as yet unidentified - outside of politics.

"As @nicolasturgeon’s Chief of Staff & Strategic Adviser over the last eight years it has always been my intention to leave government when she does.

READ MORE: Bute House to close for repairs at start of new Scottish FM's term

"Since 2004 it has been my privilege to work for the SNP, Scottish Government, John Swinney and ultimately Nicola Sturgeon.

"It has been a privilege – challenging, exhausting, at times frustrating, but also inspiring and enjoyable.

"As a team, we’ve delivered record-breaking election wins, guided numerous budgets and government programmes through minority, majority and partnership government, secured new powers for the parliament as part of the Smith Commission, built tax and social security systems, a National Investment Bank, taken Scotland to new levels of international recognition and built credibility on global issues, such as climate change.

"And while there have been some very difficult times along the way - particularly the challenges presented by the global Covid pandemic - it has been the best journey I could have wished for.

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She added: “The last two years have brought a new focus for me, stepping back from the day-to-day cut and thrust to help deliver Scotland’s presence at COP26, and help shape thinking around Scotland’s long-term strategic challenges, such as achieving net zero.

“I owe much to my colleagues across the SNP and to the politicians I have been privileged to work with. I’m also grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work closely with the Scottish Government’s dedicated civil servants, as well as stakeholders, the media and colleagues around the globe.

“I’m now looking forward to thinking about new ideas, projects, and maybe even a leftfield career change. My door and my mind are open.”

It comes as the Scottish Government announced that whoever wins the leadership contest will be without an official residence for at least four months as Bute House undergoes essential repairs.