Alex Salmond has sensationally quit the SNP claiming the move would prevent a party split.
The former First Minister, who has been the subject of two sexual harassment complaints, tonight ended his 45-year membership of the party he led twice.
He said he “truly loves the SNP and the wider independence movement in Scotland” but said his resignation was designed to stop the party descending into civil war.
That would be a risk if Nicola Sturgeon’s party bowed to pressure from political opponents demanding his suspension, the former MP said.
In a video statement published tonight, Mr Salmond said: “It seems obvious that Nicola feels under pressure from other political parties to suspend me from SNP membership, given recent party precedents.
“For my part I have always thought it a very poor idea to suspend any party member on the basis of complaints and allegations. Innocent until proven guilty is central to our concept of justice.
“However, I did not come into politics to facilitate opposition attacks on the SNP and, with parliament returning next week, I have tendered my resignation to remove this line of opposition attack.
“Most of all I am conscious that if the party felt forced into suspending me it would cause substantial internal division.”
Mr Salmond urged others not to follow his lead as he warned against a split.
The party has been under threat of division between those who want to slowly rebuild the case for independence and others desperate to take advantage of Brexit turmoil and have another referendum in the short term.
Mr Salmond has repeatedly signalled his desire to fight another independence campaign in the wake of the 2016 referendum.
His protégé Nicola Sturgeon shelved her plans for Indyref2 last year, saying she will update the country on her plans in the autumn.
The Nationalist figurehead said he will “continue to serve the independence movement in whatever role and whatever capacity I can”.
“It is a rare thing to be devoted to a cause more important than any individual, it is a precious thing to cherish it and my intention now – as it has always been – is to protect and sustain that cause,” the ex-MSP said.
Two women have made harassment complaints about the former FM, it emerged last week. Mr Salmond denies sexually harassing anybody.
The allegations have been investigated by the Scottish Government and details handed to police, who say they are assessing the information.
Mr Salmond is seeking a judicial review of the way those complaints were handled by the SNP administration.
Shortly before his statement, he launched a crowdfunding bid for supporters to help him pay for the legal action.
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said Mr Salmond’s resignation should have happened earlier.
“This is an overdue move, but one that plunges Scotland’s governing party into turmoil,” the spokesman said.
“The fact he now has the brass neck to publicly crowdfund in the same breath as seemingly doing the right thing is astonishing.
“Scotland now faces the incredible and unprecedented situation of its most famous former First Minister appealing to SNP supporters for cash to take legal action against the government he used to run.”