Nominations for the next leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats have formally opened, more than a week after Willie Rennie announced he was stepping down.
Mr Rennie, known for his eye-catching photocalls as well as his championing of mental health care, is stepping down after a decade in the job.
His decision comes after the Liberal Democrats saw their number of MSPs reduced further at May’s Holyrood elections, with the party winning just four seats.
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, will be seen as a favourite to succeed Mr Rennie.
Those seeking the leadership have until August 20 to secure their nomination, with candidates needing to get the backing of a minimum of 30 ordinary members from more than five local branches of the party.
In the meantime, Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader Alistair Carmichael will serve as interim leader.
Scottish Liberal Democrat convener Sheila Ritchie said: “Willie Rennie has been a fantastic leader for the past ten 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.”
Mr 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.”
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