Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Resigns
Nicola Sturgeon will resign as Scotland’s first minister following more than eight years in the role.
Sturgeon is the first female and longest-serving first minister of Scotland. In 2014, she succeeded Alex Salmond — graduate of the University of St Andrews — and became leader of the Scottish National Party.
This morning, Sturgeon made a public announcement explaining her decision to resign as first minister, calling it “the very best job in the world”.
Sturgeon's reasons to resign are twofold. The first is to do with the “fixed” public opinion of the leader.
Sturgeon said, “The opinions people increasingly have about me are being used as barriers to reasoned debate in our country.” She said, “Too often I see issues presented and as a result viewed not on their own merits, but through the prism of what I think and what people think about me.”
Sturgeon has become a deeply divisive politician because of her push for a second referendum on Scottish independence. Some find hypocrisy in a second referendum as her 2014 campaign described the first referendum as a “once in a generation” event. More recently, controversies over gender reforms — which was blocked by the UK government — and strikes have added pressure on the leader.
The second major prong to her resignation is related to the independence movement.
In 2014, Scottish voters were asked the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The “No” side won at a 55.3 per cent majority against independence compared to the 44.7 per cent voting in favour of Scottish independence. The referendum had the highest recorded turnout for an election or referendum in the United Kingdom since 1910.
Just six years later, Sturgeon proposed to hold a second independence referendum this autumn. This was blocked by the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
She said, “The blocking of a referendum as the accepted constitutional route to independence is a democratic outrage. By making my decision clear now I free the SNP to choose the path that it believes to be the right one, without worrying about the perceived implications for my leadership and in the knowledge that a new leader will steer us, I believe, successfully on that path.”
Sturgeon seems to imply that a new leader may have more flexibility and provide fresh enthusiasm regarding the independence movement. Yet her predecessor, Alex Salmond, said her unexpected resignation this morning leaves "no clear strategy" for the independence movement.
Sturgeon also explained that her life has been negatively impacted by the press. Of the role as First Minister, she said, "There is virtually no privacy. Even ordinary stuff that most people take for granted, like going for a coffee with friends or for a walk on your own, becomes very difficult."
Sturgeon described a "brutality to life as a politician than in years gone by" and said that resignation was not a reaction to short-term pressure but an assessment that has been considered for some weeks.
Sturgeon looked back on her time in office and the achievements of her seven-year tenure.
She said, "Young people from deprived backgrounds have never had a better chance of going to university than now."
She also highlighted the merits of the “baby box”. This is a self-described “welcome gift for every baby born in Scotland”. The box is packed with clothes, bedding, and even a poem written by Scotland’s national poet, Jackie Kay.
In her speech at Bute House in Edinburgh, she underscored her “progressive approach to taxation” and that the poorest families with children in Scotland are “£2,000 better off as a result of our policies.”
She reflected on the handling of the COVID pandemic in Scotland and the legislation that has come into place to protect victims of domestic abuse and rape.
On Sturgeon's resignation, Willie Rennie, the Liberal Democrat MSP for the North East Fife constituency tweeted, "We had a fair few arguments but secretly I was often envious of [Nicola Sturgeon's] grasp of detail, ability to read the public mood and immaculate communication skills. I wish her well for whatever comes next."
Regardless of political viewpoints towards the future of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s legacy will be assessed in the coming weeks. Her impact on Scotland is significant: the Scotland that young adults live in today has been shaped by Sturgeon.