• Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to resign

Nicola Sturgeon stands at podium

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced her resignation after eight years in office.

Sturgeon will remain in post until a new candidate is elected.

In a televised speech from Bute House late this morning, Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister said she was “a human being as well as a politician.”

Explaining the decision, Sturgeon cited the pressures of the role and being unsure if she could continue to fulfil her duties to the highest standard.

She continued, “[the] brutality to life as a politician … it takes its toll.”

Sturgeon has recently faced calls to resign from some over how her government handled the case of a transgender woman convicted of rape who was originally placed in a womens’ prison facility.

However, she assured that her decision was “not a resignation to short term pressures”, and instead something that has been building over a long period of time.

Sturgeon discussed how “polarised” and “fixed” public perception of her has become, and how a new leader could “reach across the divides.”

Ending the speech, Sturgeon described her time as First Minister as the “privilege of my life.”

Although she is stepping down, Sturgeon said that she remains committed to Scottish independence, a cause she believes in with “every fibre” of her being. 

Sturgeon said, “There is so much that I am proud of, but there is so much more to be done” in relation to independence.

Reflecting on her time as First Minister, Sturgeon described leading Scotland through Covid as the “toughest thing I have ever done.”

She also reflected on her governments investments in early learning and childcare, higher education and equality, including protection for victims of sexual abuse.

In recent months, Sturgeon’s handling of the case of Isla Bryson and debate over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill have hurt her popularity with some voters. 

The Bill would make it easier for transgender people to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate to change their legal gender.

However, it has been met with criticism and blocked by Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government. 

Polling in February 2022 by firm Savanta/ComRes found that 57 per cent of Scots favoured the Scottish Government taking steps to make a gender recognition certificate easier to obtain.

There is now an open question as to who in the SNP will replace Sturgeon.

A recent poll by Panelbase from 6 to 10 February found that 69 per cent of respondents did not know who they would choose to replace Sturgeon.

Kate Forbes received 7 per cent of the votes in the poll, followed by John Sweeney with 6 per cent and Angus Robertson with 5 per cent.

Other potential candidates mentioned include Stephen Flynn, Mhairi McAllen, Keith Brown and Neil Gray, all with under 5 per cent. 

Sturgeon has been First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party since November 2014.

She took over the role from Alex Salmond, who led Scotland through the 2014 independence referendum.

Prior to her time as First Minister, Sturgeon was leader of an SNP opposition in the Scottish Parliament from 2004 to 2007.

Later, she would serve several roles in Alex Salmond’s government between 2007 and 2014.

In 2010, during her time as Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, she oversaw the removal of prescription charges in Scotland.

During her tenure in the role, Sturgeon also oversaw the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol.

Early in her premiership, Sturgeon oversaw the devolution of more powers to Scotland, including new taxation powers which were used to expand social care provision.

Her time in office also saw the introduction of baby boxes, packages of essential items for early child care given to new mothers after giving birth.

She also saw Scotland through the pandemic, running a Covid response markedly different to that of England.

As the cost-of-living crisis intensified this past year, her government introduced a rent freeze to keep housing costs stable.

Sturgeon’s time as First Minister has also seen various controversies.

A scandal over ferry procurement dogged Sturgeon’s government since 2015, as two new boats for state ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) have run £150m over budget and over five years late.

In September 2022, the BBC reported that the ferries’ builders, state-owned shipbuilder Ferguson Marine, may have received preferential treatment when bidding for the ferries.

The shipyard, then a private firm, was given a more detailed set of requirements for the ferries than other bidders received.

They were also allowed to submit several draft proposals to CalMac when other bidders were only allowed one.

At the time of the BBC article, deputy First Minister John Swinney told the BBC that he was not aware of any interference by the government in the tendering of the two ferries.

Sturgeon also faced some criticism for her handling of sexual harassment allegations against her predecessor as First Minister, Alex Salmond.

In July 2021, Police Scotland began an investigation into the SNP’s finances, due to suspicion of a potential fundraising fraud.

The investigation seeks to understand whether funds raised for an independence campaign were misused for other areas. 

These funds include a loan of £107,620 from Peter Murrell, SNP Chief Executive and Sturgeon’s husband, which the party failed to declare for over a year.

In the last week, Police Scotland have begun to contact key witnesses for this investigation, increasing the pressure surrounding Sturgeon.

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