Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a press conference in Edinburgh, February 15, 2023.
Edinburgh – Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon intends to step down as head of the regional government and her Scottish National Party (SNP), once the party elects a new leader. She made the announcement at a hastily called press conference. She said that after more than eight years as prime minister, the time was right to leave. She also spoke about the personal toll that working in top politics takes.
Sturgeon has led the Scottish government and the SNP since November 2014, when she replaced Alex Salmond after the failure of the Scottish Nationalist camp in a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. The 52-year-old politician is the longest-serving “First Minister” in Scotland's history and also the first woman in office. SNP led to victory in regional elections first in 2016 and then in 2021.
“From my first moments in this position, I have believed that part of good office would be to know when the time is right to make room for someone else… I know in my head and in my heart that time is now,” she said at a press conference in Edinburgh . She added that she had taken steps to start the election of a new SNP leader and that she would remain in her posts until the election was over.
In recent years, Sturgeon has continued to promote the independence of Scotland following Britain's departure from the European Union, which Scottish voters did not support in 2016. However, it has not yet pushed for a new referendum. The British Supreme Court ruled in the autumn that Scotland cannot hold a plebiscite on independence without the consent of the government in London.
Recently, Sturgeon has been under pressure not only because of this defeat for Scottish nationalists. She also faced the controversy surrounding a transgender woman convicted of raping two women before the gender change and placed in a women's prison, the media also mentions the case of a loan from the Prime Minister's husband to the SNP.
Sturgeon said today that her decision was not a reaction to “short-term pressures”, although it may appear sudden. “This decision is based on a deeper and longer-term consideration,” the BBC news company quoted her as saying. She described the job at the head of the regional government as extremely demanding and indicated that she no longer wanted to “give absolutely everything of herself to this job”.
“To be clear, I'm not expecting any fanfare, but I'm a human being as well as a politician,” she said. “The First Minister never has time off. Especially these days, he has virtually no privacy. Even ordinary things that most people take for granted, like going out for coffee with friends or going for a walk, become very complicated,” she continued.
BBC reporter Philip Sim, in response to her words, wrote that although the announced resignation came as a surprise to the political public, it was clear from the speech that Sturgeon did not come to her decision overnight. In her speech, the outgoing prime minister also touched on the more general state of British politics and called for a greater degree of rationality in debates about public affairs. Her move has drawn comparisons with New Zealand politician Jacinda Ardern, who last month surprisingly announced her departure from the government, where she served for more than five years.
Sturgeon leaves the post without an obvious successor. Some commentators note that her departure may significantly affect not only the movement for Scottish independence, but the whole of British politics. A possible weakening of the SNP, which is a left-liberal party, could help the similarly oriented Labor Party seeking to return to power after more than a decade in opposition.