Nicola Sturgeon will step down as leader of the Scottish regional government and the Scottish National Party (SNP). The unexpected decision was announced at a press conference this Wednesday in Edinburgh.
Proud of the work accomplished, the leader believes that part of good governance is “knowing almost instinctively when to walk away.” And he says he now knows, “in his mind and heart”, what is best for the SNP and Scotland. He will remain in office until a successor is elected, he said.
To those who are “shocked, disappointed or even angry” with him for his resignation, he asks for understanding. “This decision is not a reaction to short-term pressures,” he says, referring to the recent controversies. These, he guarantees, are faced by all governments. And he says he’s been struggling with this issue for weeks.
“I’ve had to work harder lately,” he admits, to convince himself he’s capable of continuing in the position for more years. “I have come to the conclusion that it is not.” Claim that more than eight years in power allowed ideas to be generated “fixed and difficult to change” for himself he admits: “I think it’s only recently that I’ve begun to understand, let alone process, the physical and mental impact this has on me.”
“I don’t expect violins,” he assured, denying that he was trying to play the sentimental card. But he only admits that he devoted himself to the job “giving absolutely everything”, which is not sustainable if he continues for too long. “A Prime Minister is never off duty, especially in this age where there is virtually no privacy.” A further call is made for less polarization in Scottish and British politics.
setbacks in catadupa
The departure of Sturgeon, in power since 2014, comes after setbacks including a change of parliamentary leader in the House of Commons, an adverse UK Supreme Court ruling on the regional government’s power to call a referendum on independence and the row that prompted by the case of a transgender rapist who was sentenced to serve time in a women’s prison.
Born in 1970 in Irvine, near Glasgow, Sturgeon has a law degree. He entered Scottish politics as a regional MP in 1999. He was a member of the Home Rule government of Alex Salmond, then leader of the SNP, holding the portfolios of Health and Welfare (2008-12) and Infrastructure, Investment and Cities (2012-14, during of which she was also Deputy Prime Minister of Scotland).
When the Scots rejected independence in the 2014 referendum, Salmond stepped down and Sturgeon was the natural successor. She was the first woman to lead the government of one of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. He came to win the elections in 2016 and 2021.
Salmond, however, left the SNP in a disagreement with Sturgeon and founded the Alba party, also an independent. At issue was a sexual abuse claim, of which the former Scottish first minister would be acquitted, and in which he believes his successor had a hand in harming him.
Less than a month ago, Sturgeon told the BBC that his departure was “not imminent”. Committed to achieving a second referendum on self-determination, she argued that the UK’s departure from the European Union — decided in a referendum, in 2016, by 52%-48%, but in which 62% of Scots voted to remain — it was changing the amount that warranted a return to ask them if they wanted to remain linked to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In search of the referendum
However, a recent UK High Court ruling ruled that Edinburgh can only hold referendums with the permission of the UK government. Now, the British prime ministers after leaving the EU, all conservatives (Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and the current one, Rishi Sunak) are all against another vote.
Sturgeon is leaving office with no national or regional elections planned soon, suggesting he wants to give his successor time to assert himself in the electorate. UK general elections should be held in late 2024 and Scottish regional elections in May 2026. The latest polls show the SNP with 44 to 46% of voting intentions, well ahead of Labor (26-27%). the Conservatives (17%), liberals (7%) and greens (2%).
When the Supreme Court blocked his bid to call a new referendum, Sturgeon claimed the five-judge panel’s decision meant the UK was no longer a voluntary union of nations, as Scotland could not decide to stay or leave.
Refusing to go “with an outstretched hand” to seek Sunak’s permission, he warned: “The more contempt the Westminster regime shows for Scottish democracy, the more certain Scotland is to vote ‘yes’ to the choice.” He decided to test the position of the Scottish electorate on independence at the next election.
If more than 50% preferred the nationalist parties, he then argued, they should be heard. Apart from the SNP, independence forces are the Scottish Greens and Alba.
In announcing the withdrawal, Sturgeon reaffirmed her belief that there is a majority in favor of Scottish sovereignty. But, he warns, this “needs to be consolidated and developed further”. In the face of the “democratic scandal” refusing the referendum, he leaves the choice of how to react to the next SNP leadership. “I leave the SNP free to choose the path they see fit.”
Controversy with trans law
Sturgeon’s most recent fight, however, was in favor of a law to make it easier to change gender from the age of 16 in Scotland. The British prime minister decided to veto it, arguing that it was necessary “to guarantee the safety of women and children.”
The UK government has announced it will invoke Section 35 of the Scottish Home Rule Act 1998 for the first time to “veto” the Gender Recognition Reform Act. According to the minister for Scotland, Alistair Jack, the Scottish legislation could create two different gender recognition systems in the UK.
The law lowered the minimum age at which a person can apply for a gender recognition certificate from 18 to 16, and removed the need for a medical diagnosis and proof of having lived for two years in the acquired gender. Jack listed as risks the impact on the running of unisex clubs, associations and schools, as well as issues such as pay equity.
Sturgeon called London’s decision a “frontal assault” on the Scottish parliament’s autonomy and vowed to appeal in court. The case of a transgender woman who was convicted of raping while wearing a male identity and placed in a women’s prison has weakened the Scottish Prime Minister’s position in public opinion.
The roulette wheel of succession
Sturgeon assures she will not interfere in the selection of the next SNP leader. Names such as John Swinney, the current Deputy First Minister of Scotland and the most experienced figure in his government, are in the press. He was interim leader between the terms of former leader Alex Salmond.
Another presumptive candidate is Angus Robertson, who was parliamentary leader of the SNP in the Other House of Commons and is now responsible for Culture and Foreign Affairs in the regional body. He is, with Swinney, one of the few surviving from the Salmond era.
Kate Forbes holds the finance portfolio and could take over the reins of the party, becoming its newest leader. She speaks Gaelic, she is a Christian (a point that could dictate conflicts between personal positions and those of the party). Muslim Humza Yousaf, in charge of health, is another candidate reported by the papers.