Nicola Sturgeon leaves “no clear strategy for independence” as she stands down as Scotland’s First Minister, her predecessor Alex Salmond said.

Her one-time mentor turned political enemy said he “feels for” the SNP leader as she announced her resignation from the post on Wednesday.

She told a press conference the “time is now” for her to stand down as Scotland’s First Minister, adding it was “right for me, for my party and for the country”.

Mr Salmond said: “There has been no question of Nicola’s talents as a first-rate political communicator and election winner and – having been there – I feel for her personally on the day of her resignation.

“There are two questions for the future.

Nicola Sturgeon resignation
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond ahead of the Scottish independence referendum (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“One is that the movement has been left with no clear strategy for independence. The previously accepted referendum route has been closed and the de facto referendum/election proposal is now, at best, up in the air.

“Secondly, there is no obvious successor. There are a range of able people in the SNP but they will now be tested in the fire of leadership, inheriting a range of serious Government policy challenges.

“It is to be hoped that those voices which wish to reunite the national movement emerge to win that contest.”

However, SNP members hailed Ms Sturgeon’s work on Scottish independence.

Ian Blackford, Scottish MP and former leader of the SNP in Westminster, said “when Scotland wins independence”, Ms Sturgeon will have been its “architect and builder”, adding: “We owe it to her to finish the job.”

Current SNP Westminster Stephen Flynn said Ms Sturgeon has been an “outstanding political leader”, adding: “As SNP leader, she has taken support for independence to record levels and won every national election, by margins other parties could only wish for.”

Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney, one of several possible candidates who could succeed Ms Sturgeon, tweeted: “She has my warmest good wishes for the future and heartfelt thanks for all that she has done for Scotland, for the cause of Independence and the Scottish National Party.”

SNP president Michael Russell has thanked Nicola Sturgeon for her “extraordinary and brilliant leadership”.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said Ms Sturgeon had been a “formidable politician” and he thanked her for her service as First Minister, but said her resignation is a “welcome opportunity for the Scottish Government to change course, and to drop its divisive obsession with independence”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak thanked her for her long-standing service and wished her the best for her next steps.

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Holyrood’s second-largest party, said: “I am glad Nicola Sturgeon has recognised this is the right time to go.”

He blamed her for a decade of “constitutional paralysis” and accused her of “governing in her party’s interests, rather than Scotland’s”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar paid tribute to Ms Sturgeon being at the “forefront of Scottish politics for more than 20 years”, adding that his party aspires to deliver the change it believes Scotland now needs.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said Scotland faces many challenges and called on the SNP to restore stability after Ms Sturgeon stepped down.

But today is “not a day for political attacks”, Mr Cole-Hamilton told BBC News.

The Edinburgh Western MSP recalled a warm moment between the two when the First Minister offered him “words of comfort” after his young daughter choked on a coin and had to be resuscitated around five years ago.

Tributes were also paid from further afield, with Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar hailing Ms Sturgeon as a “true European”.

He said: “I always found Nicola a very warm person, articulate and thoughtful, and a very capable politician, who showed huge commitment to her country.”