NICOLA Sturgeon has called for Mark McDonald to resign as an MSP after the SNP released damning findings of an internal inquiry into the former children’s minister’s behaviour.

In a dramatic series of events yesterday the First Minister urged McDonald to stand down and let his constituents elect a new MSP for Aberdeen Donside in a by-election.

Her intervention followed an announcement earlier in the day by the 37-year-old that he was resigning from the SNP but would continue to take his seat at Holyrood as an Independent member.

But making clear her disapproval, Sturgeon said: “He was elected as an SNP MSP. If his behaviour is such that he himself considers he cannot continue as an SNP MSP, then it would be appropriate to give his constituents the opportunity to elect a new MSP.”

The development followed a statement by the SNP which said its inquiry had found McDonald had exploited his position of power and given unwanted attention which had caused distress. It also said his behaviour had been deliberate, that he had sent inappropriate and unwanted text and social media messages, and that it had taken place over an extended period of time.

“Mark McDonald was suspended from the SNP on 16 November 2017. An independent investigation was commissioned to consider reports of inappropriate behaviour,” the statement said. “The investigators concluded that Mr McDonald’s inappropriate behaviour had been deliberate in nature.

“He should have been aware that it was not appropriate for an individual in his position to be acting in such a manner.

“His actions included: inappropriate and unwanted text and social media messages; unwanted attention causing distress; persistent behaviour over an extended period of time; exploiting his position of power.”

McDonald, a married father-of-two and once regarded a high flier in the SNP, was shown the inquiry’s findings on Monday.

He has been absent from the Scottish Parliament since the allegations against him were made, but emerged yesterday afternoon in Aberdeen to read out a prepared statement to the media.

He said he accepted his behaviour had caused “hurt and offence” to two women, offered them a “public and unreserved apology” and insisted he had been busy fulfilling his constituency duties while under investigation. He refused to take questions from journalists.

Calls were also made across the other parties for him to quit Holyrood.

Labour parliamentary business manager Rhoda Grant said: “Mark McDonald decided his conduct was not fit for a minister or an SNP MSP - but somehow it is acceptable for an MSP without party affiliation.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Greens said: “It’s not clear from Mark McDonald’s statement if he accepts the full findings of the investigation. In the interests of transparency Mr McDonald must explain why he sees himself as unsuitable to be an SNP MSP, but competent for the role as an independent.”

Tory MSP Alexander Burnett added: “Many people will rightly be questioning why Mark McDonald thinks that his behaviour was bad enough to resign from the SNP, but not to resign from the Scottish Parliament.”

McDonald may face a separate inquiry by the Scottish Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life adding to the pressure on him to leave. There is no inquiry at present.

A SNP spokesman said: “The SNP group was due to consider disciplinary action, based on [the inquiry’s] findings. Investigators concluded Mr McDonald had been deliberate in his actions, and should have been aware that it was not appropriate for an individual in his position to be behaving in such a manner. Mr McDonald today publicly resigned from the party.”

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “The Parliament will be discussing practical arrangements for his return with Mr McDonald shortly.”

McDonald was appointed minister for childcare and early years in May 2016 and in this role was responsible for the launch of the high profile baby box policy.