Nicola Sturgeon announces that she will step down as First Minister of Scotland when a successor is appointed
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Wednesday that she has instructed the Scottish National Party to start the process of electing a new leader and that she will remain in office until a successor is chosen.
“In that moment I knew it was the right thing for me,” Sturgeon told a news conference at Bute House in Edinburgh.
“Also for my party and for the country. So today I announce my intention to step down as prime minister and leader.”
“I have asked the SNP national secretary to start the process of electing a new party leader and I will remain in office until my successor is chosen,” she continued.
“I know that there will be some across the country who are upset by this decision and the fact that I am speaking, of course to balance there will be others who will treat him well.”
Sturgeon said that she could no longer devote all of her energy to work and that she felt she should say so now. “I’ve been struggling with it, albeit with fluctuating levels of intensity for a few weeks,” said the 52-year-old leader. “Giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it.”
She said it was difficult to have a private life, noting that it was hard “to meet friends for coffee or to go for a walk alone” and noting that there was a “brutality” in public life.
The prime minister added that she hoped her successor would be “someone who is not subject to the same polarized opinions, fair or unfair, as I am now.”
Wednesday’s shock announcement sparked breathless speculation about Sturgeon’s timing, particularly as she had recently pledged to make Britain’s upcoming general election a de facto second referendum on Scottish independence.
While Sturgeon stressed that she felt she didn’t have enough left in the tank to fulfill her duties, her list of political headaches has grown. The SNP’s polls have fallen, chipping away at its grip on Scottish politics. The independence movement has stalled, with no real chance of a referendum on the cards anytime soon.
She has lost support in her party since she tried to introduce the controversial gender identity bill, and some polls suggested that a majority of Scots supported the UK government’s decision to use its powers to block the proposal. And her husband was embroiled in a scandal late last year after it was reported that he had personally lent the SNP £100,000.
In short, having dominated Scottish politics for eight years, wielding the baseball bat of independence and regularly using it to bash the UK government, Sturgeon could have decided to step down before his legacy is marred by failure.
What about Scottish independence?
When Scotland held a referendum in 2014, voters rejected the prospect of independence 55% to 45%, but the political landscape changed, mainly due to Brexit.
A majority of Scots voted to remain in the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and the SNP successfully used Brexit as a key issue, arguing that Scots were removed from the European Union against their will. .
This boosted support for independence for a while, but that momentum has hit a brick wall more recently. In November, Britain’s High Court ruled that the Scottish government cannot unilaterally hold a second independence referendum.
This means that the SNP is faced with the problem that the UK government must approve any decision to hold a referendum.
Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, four consecutive Conservative prime ministers, did not entertain the idea. It also seems highly unlikely that Keir Starmer, the leader of the official opposition Labor Party, will give the idea any push, given that Labor needs to win seats in Scotland to win a parliamentary majority in the UK.
The SNP plans to hold a special conference on independence next month. Now it is likely that you will arrive at that conference divided and without any certainty of your direction. All of which will make those who oppose independence very happy.
— CNN’s Chris Liakos and Zahid Mahmood contributed to this report.