Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared her resignation Wednesday after further than eight years leading its devolved government, in a shock move jolting UK politics on both sides of the border.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said in my head and in my heart she knew the time was right to quit, after approaching a decade in power pushing for Scottish independence. The 52- year-old attested she’d remain, the first minister, until the SNP elects a new leader, and also stay on as a member of the Scottish Parliament until at least the coming election, due in 2026.
She departs after facing mounting pressure over her tactics for independence and over transgender rights.
But in a hastily arranged news conference, Sturgeon claimed that her decision to step down was not a response to short-term pressures and comes from a deeper and longer- term assessment.
I know it may feel sudden, but I’ve been scuffling with it—albeit with oscillating levels of intensity—for some weeks, ”she said.
I’m a human being as well as a politician, ”she added.
Giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it.
The country deserves nothing lesser. But in truth that can only be done by anyone for so long.
Political allies and opponents across the UK paid homage, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praising her long-standing service and wishing Sturgeon all the best for her ensuing path ”.
The UK government’s secretary of state for Scotland, Alister Jack, called her “a formidable politician”, while also urging her eventual successor at the SNP to “drop its divisive preoccupation with independence ”.
Northern Ireland’s first minister-elect Michelle O’Neill, vice president of thepro-Irish party Sinn Fein, also lauded her “ friend”,adding that Sturgeon “leaves a heritage for which anyone in politics or public life would be happily proud ”.
Sturgeon, who became the first woman to lead Scotland when she took power in 2014, pledged to continue pushing for Scottish independence while defending her record on the standard issue.
I powerfully believe that my successor, whoever he or she may be, will lead Scotland to independence and I’ll be there cheering him or her on every single step of the way, ”she said.
Sturgeon has overseen unprecedented electoral success for the SNP as she pushed for another referendum.
She took over in the aftereffect of the last vote, which saw Scots reject breaking away from the rest of the UK by further than 10 percentage points, and has been intensively pushing for another vote.
But she has been lately stymied by the UK government, which must authorize the holding of another referendum.
It insists that the September 2014 vote was a once-in-a-generation event and has refused to allow another, despite Scotland advancing against Brexit in 2016.
In 2021, the SNP won a fourth successive term in power in Edinburgh on a platform of holding a new independence referendum after Brexit, recording the largest share of the popular vote.
But it fell one short of an outright majority and allied with the Greens to stay in power.
Scotland’s parliament and its ruling executive were formed in 1999 under devolution reforms created by the Labour government in London at the time.
But since 2021, the push for independence has stalled, with a flurry of recent opinion polls showing declining support in Scotland for breaking away.
Some critics, even within the SNP, have criticized Sturgeon for failing to deliver a winning strategy on the issue after the Supreme Court in November sided with the UK government in blocking a fresh vote.
She has also faced a counterreaction over her support for transgender rights, after getting embroiled in a row over whether transgender women can be housed in all-female incarcerations.
Despite that, as recently as last month she claimed she’d remain first minister, telling the BBC she was “nowhere near ”ready to quit after Jacinda Ardern’s shock departure as New Zealand prime minister.
Sturgeon said Wednesday that she’d not publicly back her preferred successor, with finance secretary Kate Forbes among the leading names to stand.