Nicola Sturgeon announces that she is stepping down as SNP leader
Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she will be stepping down as First Minister after more than eight years in the role. She explained her reasoning for the shock decision at a hastily organized press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh earlier today. Here, the Daily Express outlines the key things you need to know from Ms Sturgeon’s address this morning.
Nicola Sturgeon announced that she will be stepping down as First Minister after more than eight years
The First Minister will not step down until a successor is appointed
Although Ms Sturgeon said the “time is right” for her to step down, she said she will stay in post until her successor is appointed. The longest serving – and first female – Prime Minister said the decision to resign is her “duty”. She acknowledged the “physical and mental impact” of the role, but said she can “battle on for another few months”.
Ms Sturgeon’s decision to step down after eight years is set to ignite an internal battle within the party. Secretary for Finance and Economy Kate Forbes is currently the frontrunner for the job, but polling from PanelbasePolitical shows that more than two-thirds of Scottish voters don’t know who should take over from Ms Sturgeon. Potential candidates to succeed Ms Sturgeon also include External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson and Deputy First Minister John Swinney.
She appeared to give up on her independence dream
The press conference also Ms Sturgeon appeared to give up on her personal independence crusade. The SNP leader said she wants her party to choose its plan for Scottish independence without the influence of a leader who might not be around to carry it out. She said: “I free the SNP to choose the path that it believes to be the right one.” Speaking about the future of the independence movement, she added: “By making my decision clear now I free the SNP to make the right decision.”
“We’re at a critical moment”, she warned, saying “the cause of independence is bigger than any one individual.”
She explained her reasoning for the shock decision at a hastily organized press conference
Ms Sturgeon denied the decision was the result of the recent row over trans rights
The outgoing First Minister signaled that her decision to step down is not a result of the recent row over trans rights. In a nod to the recent controversy, Ms Sturgeon denied that her decision to step down came as a result of “short-term pressures”. She added: “I know it might seem sudden but I have been wrestling with it with oscillating levels of intensity for a few weeks”. She acknowledged the “choppy waters” but insisted her resignation was not in response to the “latest period of pressure”, adding: “This decision comes from a deeper and longer-term assessment.”
When asked whether the row around trans prisoners was the “straw that broke camel’s back”, Ms Sturgeon said: “No that issue wasn’t the final straw…It’s not the case that this decision is down to short-term issues” . She added: “If it was just that I wouldn’t be standing here today. One of the things I do regret is not being able to bring a more rational approach to these debates.”
Ms Sturgeon admitted she is seen to be a ‘polarising’ figure
The outgoing party leader called for the party to “reach across the divide in Scottish politics”, saying that a “new leader would be better able to do this”. Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that she is now subject to “polarised opinions, fair or unfair”. The SNP leader has faced controversy in recent weeks, primarily as a result of the row over trans rights, which was divisive both in Westminster and also within her own party. The legislation, blocked by Westminster in January, would have removed the requirement for trans people to have a medical diagnosis before obtaining a certificate confirming their preferred gender. The row escalated further after Isla Bryson, who was formerly called Adam Graham but now identifies as a woman, was sentenced for two rapes that were committed prior to her gender change.
She believes the party is ‘firmly on course to win the next election’
Despite her decision to step down, Ms Sturgeon said she believes the SNP is “firmly on course to win the next election, while our opponents remain adrift”. She added: “The longer any leader is in office, the more opinions about them become fixed and very hard to change, and that matters. Individual polls come and go, but I am firmly of the view that there is now majority support for independence in Scotland.”
The press conference also Ms Sturgeon appeared to give up on her personal independence crusade
Ms Sturgeon won’t be leaving politics but will continue to ‘give everything’ to serve the country
Ms Sturgeon said she was “not leaving politics” and will continue to fight for Scottish independence. She said she will “continue to give everything I can in service to this country”. But the outgoing leader said she now wants to focus on being “Nicola Sturgeon the person” rather than giving everything to politics. She said: “I’ve been Nicola Sturgeon the politician for all of my life. It’s been a privilege”, adding: “Having reached this stage in my life, maybe I want to spend a bit of time on Nicola Sturgeon the person, the human being, and contribute differently.”
The outgoing FM said leading Scotland through the pandemic was “by far the toughest thing I’ve done”, adding the weight of responsibility was “immense”. She continued: “It’s only very recently I think that I’ve started to comprehend, let alone process, the physical and mental impact of it on me… These jobs are a privilege but they are also rightly hard. I’m not expecting violins here but I am a human being as well as a politician”.