FM stands down

‘I knew instinctively it was time to go’ – Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon announcing her resignation at Bute House

Nicola Sturgeon said today her resignation as First Minister of Scotland was not a reaction to short term issues.

At a press conference at her official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, she said: “I have believed that part of serving well would be to know – almost instinctively – when the time is right to make way for someone else.

“And when that time came, to have the courage to do so – even if, to many across the country, and in my party, it might feel too soon.

“In my head and my heart, I know that time is now. That it is right for me, for my party, and for the country”.

Ms Sturgeon, 52, spoke of the difficulties of doing simple things, such as “going for a coffee”, while under permanent and “brutal” scrutiny.

She said she will remain in office until her successor is elected and is “not leaving politics”, and will remain in the parliament “at least until the next election”. However, she made it clear that she wanted time to focus on other things.

“To those who do feel shocked, disappointed, perhaps even a bit angry with me, please know that, while hard – and be in no doubt, this is really hard for me – my decision comes from a place of duty and of love.

“Tough love perhaps – but love nevertheless, for my party and above all for the country.

Nicola Sturgeon at 2018 party conference
Nicola Sturgeon led the SNP to new heights (pic: Terry Murden)

“This decision comes from a deeper and longer term assessment.

“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.”

She said she has been wrestling with this decision for some weeks and must 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?”

She said the answer to both is no.

An announcement that she was leaving after eight years in office was made just before 10am.

One source said she has “had enough”, despite recently saying there was “plenty in the tank” and did not feel she was anywhere near standing down.

Ms Sturgeon succeeded Alex Salmond as First Minister in November 2014 following the independence referendum.

Despite winning an almost clean sweep of Westminster constituency seats she has failed to sustain a clear majority in favour of independence.

She has also become embroiled in a series of policy controversies from gender recognition and ferries to a new recycling scheme and plans to ban the promotion of alcohol.

She also called for the next general election to become a ‘de facto’ independence referendum which has divided the party.

Ms Sturgeon opposed the exit of Ian Blackford as Westminster leader, setting her against the new leader Stephen Flynn.

Her party’s record on education, health and drugs have also been seen as weak, and there has been no improvement in economic productivity.

Her handling of the pandemic divided opinion between those who felt she took a more measured view compared to the more chaotic approach by Boris Johnson, and those who resented the way she used the support schemes to create division between Holyrood and Westminster, often at the cost of Scottish businesses who received financial help later than their counterparts south of the border.

Kate Forbes
Kate Forbes: tipped as successor (pic: Terry Murden)

There is also a risk that the nationalist vote will be divided by the emergence of the Alba Party under the leadership of Mr Salmond.

There will be speculation that Ms Sturgeon will hand over to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes who is currently on maternity leave.

Others likely to be in the frame include Keith Brown, Stephen Flynn and Angus Robertson.

There have been no calls so far for a Scottish general election.

Ms Sturgeon has been a member of the Scottish Parliament since it was re-constituted in 1999, and became the deputy leader of the SNP in 2004.

Business reaction

Robert Kilgour, founder and chair of the pro-union business organisation SBUK, said: “I respect NOT detest Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP – Nicola Sturgeon is a very able politician and communicator and I thank her for her service as Scotland’s First Minister.

“However, I hope that the new leader of the SNP and the new First Minister will value Scottish business and its positive contribution to Scotland’s economy more than Nicola Sturgeon has done as First Minister – where it has sadly been ‘Public Sector good – Private Sector bad’ for too long. 

“I genuinely hope that we can have a positive reset in this critical relationship asap aswell as more Scottish Government focus on their ‘Day Job’ of governing Scotland and delivering quality public services as opposed to this very unhealthy and distracting IndyRef2 fixation.”

Federation of Small Businesses’ Scotland policy chair, Andrew McRae, said: “We always enjoyed a constructive relationship with the First Minister throughout her record-breaking term – a period which was dominated by some of the greatest challenges our economy and communities have faced in decades.

“We look forward to continuing this positive role as a critical friend with her successor.”

Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said: “With the Scottish economy continuing to face severe pressure, the political vacuum must be filled at speed. Action on business confidence, investment and growth are needed now more than ever.”

Comment: Time for a new deal within the union

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