SNP politicians from across North Ayrshire have expressed their shock and disappointment following First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's decision to step down from her role.

The Scottish National Party leader gave a short-notice press conference at her official residence Bute House in Edinburgh on the morning of Wednesday, February 15.

Sturgeon has confirmed that she will not be leaving politics and will continue with personal campaigns.

The news comes a month before a SNP conference to decide how the party plans to push the case for independence forward after the Supreme Court ruled Holyrood could not hold a unilateral referendum.

And SNP MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, Patricia Gibson, has expressed her sadness at the news - as she paid homage to the nation's longest serving First Minister.

She said: "This is terrible news and a huge loss to the Scottish National Party (SNP) and our wider independence movement.

"In her entire tenure, no other party leader or political figure ever came close to matching her."

While fellow MP, though for Central Ayrshire, Dr Philippa Whitford, also shared her shock at the Ms Sturgeon's decision - which she has found out while on a visit to Houston in the USA.

She commented: "Woke to this news - shocked and disappointed but I understand how exhausted she must be.

"Nicola Sturgeon worked so hard to guide people of Scotland through Covid - for that and so much more, I’m really grateful!"

MSP for Cunninghame North, Kenneth Gibson, who works closely beside Ms Sturgeon in Holyrood, spoke extensively on the First Minister's decision.

He has worked closely beside Ms Sturgeon, who herself is from Dreghorn in North Ayrshire, for much of their political careers.

He commented: "Like probably everyone else in the SNP and wider independence movement, I was shocked by the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon MSP as both First Minister and SNP leader this morning.

"I have known Nicola for more than 30 years. During that time we have had disagreements but also worked hard together on many issues, particularly our shared goal of independence.

"And her success is unrivalled, with six consecutive Westminster, Holyrood and European election victories since 2014.

"Even after Covid, economic shocks and the ups and downs of politics, Nicola remains the most popular and widely respected politician in Scotland and the UK.

"I have no doubt that Nicola will continue to fight for the independence cause, work hard at Holyrood and for her constituents.

"I wish her all the best. It is, truly, the end of an era."

MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, hailed Ms Sturgeon as "inspirational".

She said: "As our first female and longest serving First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has been inspirational. Arguably one of the most talented and successful politicians our country has ever produced, I am sorry to see her stand down as First Minister and leader of the SNP however, respect that in taking that difficult decision she has shown great courage.

"We are all human beings as well as politicians. Being in the front line of politics takes its toll, not only on the individuals but also on people's families and friends.

"No one has borne that more than Nicola Sturgeon, not least as she led our nation through the uncharted waters of a global pandemic.

"Her strength, integrity and leadership through those most difficult times of the pandemic is something that I will be eternally grateful for.

"As the First Minister herself has said, her resignation also gives us all an opportunity as politicians to reflect and consider the current nature of and culture in politics.

"We all have an opportunity to try to de-polarise and de-personalise public debate, to focus more on issues, and to reset the tone of discourse.

"Nicola leaves a huge legacy, I thank her for all she has done for Scotland."