15 FEBRUARY 2023 | NEWS
In a press conference today, Nicola Sturgeon announced that she would step down as Scottish First Minister and leader of the SNP.
She has instructed her party to begin the process of selecting a new leader, but that she will remain in her position until her successor has been chosen.
She said today: “First, though I know it will be tempting to see it as such, this decision is not a reaction to short-term pressures.
“Of course, there are difficult issues confronting the Government just now, but when is that ever not the case?
“I have spent almost three decades in front-line politics, a decade and a half on the top or second-top rung of Government.
“When it comes to navigating choppy waters, resolving seemingly intractable issues, or soldiering on when walking away would be the simpler option, I have plenty of experience to draw on,” she added.
“So if this was just a question of my ability or my resilience to get through the latest period of pressure, I wouldn’t be standing here today, but it’s not.
“This decision comes from a deeper and longer-term assessment. I know it may seem sudden, but I have been wrestling with it, albeit with oscillating levels of intensity, for some weeks.
“Essentially, I’ve been trying to answer two questions: is carrying on right for me? And more importantly, is me carrying on right for the country, for my party and for the independence cause I have devoted my life to?”
Ms Sturgeon, who is the longest-serving and first female First Minister of Scotland, has come under fire in recent weeks over a number of issues.
Her Government saw a setback in its controversial Gender Recognition Reform Act, which the UK Government said it would take action to block.
In the fallout of this, she also faced criticism over her handling of the case of a convicted rapist who identified as a transgender woman – who would be entitled to serve their sentence in a female prison under Scottish legislation.
Ms Sturgeon’s resignation also comes after difficulty in persuading the UK Government to the negotiating table over a second referendum on independence for Scotland.
In December last year, Ian Blackford resigned as the leader of the SNP in Westminster, opening up the possibility for him to succeed Ms Sturgeon.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has paid tribute to Ms Sturgeon, thanking her “for her long-standing service”, adding on Twitter: “We will continue to work closely with the scotgov on our joint efforts to deliver for people across Scotland.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said in response to today’s news that she “served with dedication and passion” and he wished her “all the best for her next steps”.
He added that Labour “stands ready to be the change that Scotland needs”.