Stunned SNP ministers and MSPs were “caught out” as Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation sent shockwaves through Holyrood.
Party whips usually post on the WhatsApp messaging groups to alert colleagues when “big announcements” are due to be made, and often provide some detail of what will be revealed.
On Wednesday morning, however, there was no warning about what was about to unfold.
“There was literally nothing this morning. I think that caught people out,” said an SNP source.
In the dark
Even some of the most senior figures in Ms Sturgeon’s government were unaware of the plans.
One Cabinet secretary is understood to have had a “one to one” meeting with the first minister last week, during which detailed plans were discussed for later in the year.
Ms Sturgeon did not give any indication to the senior minister that there was a chance she might not be in office by that time.
“There was nothing at all. Absolutely zero talk of anything,” said a source.
“The first we got wind of it was about 9.30 this morning.”
While some SNP MSPs, MPs and their staff had seen the writing on the wall for Scotland’s longest serving first minister, most were surprised.
Some privately speculated that it might be linked to questions over a £100,000 loan given to the SNP by Peter Murrell, Ms Sturgeon’s husband and party chief executive.
Then there is the separate probe into alleged donation fraud of £600,000.
Others pointed to the escalating row over the first minister’s handling of gender recognition reforms.
The rumour mill is going into overdrive. Everything just seemed a bit rushed.”
“The rumour mill is going into overdrive,” one source said.
“I don’t know if there is something going on in the background here. Everything just seemed a bit rushed.”
In her speech, Ms Sturgeon said she had been “wrestling” with the decision for “some weeks”.
One close ally signalled that they had been made aware of the SNP leader’s intentions in the “last few days”.
They said: “She’s a good friend of mine. Yes, of course, I have had conversations with her.
“We’ve often talked about the burdens of office. She is someone who would have asked, is she the right person to lead us?
“And the answer to that question at any time in the past, and in the present for me, would have been ‘absolutely yes’.
“Until the last few days… I didn’t know that this was something she was thinking about.
“I would say, for her, that she has made the right decision.”
Her friend categorically denied that the resignation had anything to do with investigations into party finances.
“If you think of someone who has been in that office for eight years, there is no down time – you’re talking about 24/7, 365 days a year,” they said.
“She is an absolute workoholic. She has been in public life, effectively, all her adult life.
“As she expressed herself, it was time for her and Peter to be able to move on.”