Ms Cherry was axed from the SNP’s Westminster frontbench earlier this year amid Ms Sturgeon’s crisis with former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. The politician claimed she was dismissed as a result of a “witch hunt” following the party’s revision of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). It came as a shock as Ms Cherry was considered an indispensable member of the party, having sat in Westminster since 2015.
Known to be an ally of Mr Salmond, many now speculate whether she could swap teams and join his Alba Party which was launched on Friday.
Ms Cherry has previously floated her attraction to holding a leading role in Scottish politics.
She spoke to Holyrood magazine in 2019, criticising a “minority” of SNP activists who support plans to reform the GRA, accusing them of shutting down debate by labelling feminists “transphobes” for “sticking up for women”.
When asked about her leadership ambitions, Ms Cherry said: “I’d love to play a leadership role in a future independent Scotland, but leadership doesn’t necessarily mean being the leader of the party or being the First Minister.”
She added: “There’s lots of leadership roles, and I want to play my part, but no woman should ever write herself off as a potential leader.
“I’ve worked very hard in my role and I know I’ve got quite a big public profile now and I’m popular with the party membership, but there isn’t a vacancy for an SNP leader.
“We have a very strong and effective leader and there’s no vacancy.”
While she noted that she had “never said she wanted to be party leader”, Ms Cherry failed to rule out a future position at the fore.
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“It’s very clear that some very senior people, Cherry being one, are unhappy with the SNP’s management and strategy, and to some extent the strategy on independence.
“But it’s also with the trans issue.
“The more that went on, the more I’ve come to realise that there’s a lot of people for whom the SNP have a pro-trans gender stance with the GRA and so on – and Cherry’s very much on the opposite side of the argument.
“That, I genuinely think, is a division in the party, and there personal reasons too: Cherry and Sturgeon are not pals to put it mildly.”
Mr Salmond has said the Alba Party will field at least four candidates in each regional list.
He hopes to achieve a “supermajority” for independence in Holyrood this May.
The BBC’s political correspondent Nick Eardley noted that for months, “a small but loyal group in the SNP have been unhappy with the party on independence and other issues”.
This cohort “are now being offered a political home”.
On Thursday, Ms Cherry announced she was “taking some time out” for health reasons.
In a tweet, she wrote: “A wee personal announcement. I’m taking some time out for health reasons.
“My constituency office will continue to deal with all enquiries. I hope my privacy will be respected.”