Last week, Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon announced that she was stepping down after eight years in the hot seat. Although she insisted “short-term pressures” were not to blame, a scuppered second independence referendum bid and the ongoing row over transgender rights are widely thought to have precipitated her downfall. In a new Express.co.uk poll, a staggering 96 percent of readers thought the time was late for her to resign.
Ms Sturgeon took over the stewardship of Scotland from Alex Salmond in 2014 off the back of the SNP’s failed independence bid. Last Wednesday, in a surprise conference in Edinburgh, she announced that she was leaving the post.
Claiming her decision had nothing to do with her present political woes, Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister said that the job was a “privilege”, but one that “takes its toll” on politicians and those close to them.
The past few weeks have been especially tough. The UK supreme court blocked her hallmark plan to hold a second independence referendum in October, and her stance on transgender rights came under intense scrutiny after double rapist Isla Bryson was sent to a female prison.
Her shock departure – without any obvious successor lined up – has caused turmoil within the SNP.
In a poll that ran from 10am on Wednesday, February 15, to 8am on Tuesday, February 21, Express.co.uk asked readers to share their immediate thoughts on Ms Sturgeon’s resignation.
To the question of “Has Nicola Sturgeon done a good job as First Minister?” a total of 7,501 votes were cast with an overwhelming 94 percent (7,078 people) answering “No”.
This result was mirrored in responses to “Was she right to resign?” where 96 percent (7,155 people) of the 7,475 total said “Yes” it was time for her to go.
As to who should take her place, Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry emerged as the favorite with the backing of just under seven percent of readers (491 people) – with 7,432 votes cast.
Most people, however, selected that they “Didn’t know” who should take on the role next, an admission made by 58 percent (4.287 percent) of voters.
Hundreds of comments were left below the accompanying article as readers debated Ms Sturgeon’s record and potential successors.
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As to replacement candidates, few names garnered any support, save an endorsement of the former SNP Commons leader by username In the bag, who said: “Blackford, the man for the job.”
Username Forenest was unconvinced by the lot, commenting: “It matters not who she is replaced by, they are all sectarians who want to cause anger and division. That is all they offer.”
Username Spud1 advocated for radical change, suggesting: “No one should replace her as First Minister, Scotland would be better off if it was just reintegrated into the UK and undevolved. Devolution has been a costly disaster for the UK taxpayer.”
With commendable foresight, username castusverax wrote: “To sum up the poll results…she has done an incredibly bad job and people are glad to see the back of her and there is no one in the SNP ranks deemed competent enough to take over . What a surprise?”
Culture secretary Angus Robertson – the bookies’ early favorite – pulled out of the running on Monday morning.
First out of the gate to reveal their candidacy were Humza Yousaf and former minister Ash Regan, both laying out their plans in the Sunday Mail. The health secretary pledged to uphold Ms Sturgeon’s progressive policy agenda during her campaign launch at Clydebank Town Hall on Monday.
Finance secretary Kate Forbes also announced her leadership bid on Monday, setting herself apart from fellow frontrunners by vowing to ditch controversial gender reform laws.
As of 10am on Tuesday, February 21, betting house William Hill puts the odds of becoming the next SNP leader at 8/15 for Mr Yousaf and 15/8 for Ms Forbes.
Ms Sturgeon will remain in her post until her successor takes office, with the winner expected to be announced on March 27.