“We need to reach across the divide in Scottish politics, and my judgement now is that this needs a new leader.”

The First Minister of Scotland , Nicola Sturgeon has announced that she will be stepping down from that role over the coming months.

“I consider this decision to be the right one for me, my party and the country. I hope it can also be the right one for our politics. If all parties were to take this opportunity to try to de-polarise public debate just a bit, to focus more on issues, and to reset the tone and tenor of our discourse.”

Nicola Sturgeon
@Scottish Government

Making her announcement by a live feed from Bute House, Edinburgh on Wednesday 15th of February, Nicola Sturgeon said:

“I have been First Minister for over eight years, and I was Deputy First Minister for the best part of eight years before that. These jobs are a privilege but they are also – rightly – hard. And, it is only possible to give absolutely everything to a job of this nature for so long.

“Given the nature and scale of the challenges the country faces, I feel that duty, first and foremost, to our country – to ensure that it does have the energy of leadership it needs, not just today, but through the years that remain of this parliamentary term.”

The news came as a shock to many but opposition politicians locally were quick to react.

Orkney Constituency MSP Liam McArthur, LibDem said:

“Nicola Sturgeon has been a formidable force in Scottish politics for more than two decades. Becoming the longest serving and first female First Minister is an impressive achievement that deserves respect.

“It has been a heavy burden to carry over these years, especially through the challenges of the pandemic, and Nicola Sturgeon deserves credit for the service she has provided.

“However, it has needs to be acknowledged that she leaves behind a divided nation, whose divisions she has done as much as anyone to widen. Her track record on health, education, transport, justice and the environment too often were characterised by bold promises but a failure to deliver. This is epitomised by the ferries fiasco that has left island communities still waiting for the new ferries they so desperately need.

“We now need a Scottish Government which is fully focused on the day job and will seek to bring people together as we tackle the many profound challenges our country faces. In the meantime, I want to wish Nicola Sturgeon well for the future and offer my thanks for her service.”

Another opposition MSP Highlands and Islands Rhoda Grant, Labour said:

“Nicola Sturgeon led the country for eight years and during a pandemic.  That was not an easy task for anyone and her communication skills were helpful in delivering clear public information at the start of the pandemic.

“In stepping down she has shown a degree of self-awareness with regard to the current political climate in Scotland.

“Her legacy will be judged in the coming days and I am sure a number of policies that are attracting attention may have had a bearing on her decision to step down, such as the broken promise on the A9, the NHS in crisis and the ferries fiasco.  Her successor inherits a challenging position. I wish her all the best in whatever she does next.”

Despite the reactions from the opposition Nicola Sturgeon was not only very popular within her own party, the SNP, but with voters. The SNP dominate politics in Scotland at every level and are still riding high in the polls. Internationally Nicola Sturgeon is also highly regarded by leaders of other nations.

Nicola Sturgeon along with other Women World Leaders at COP26 @Scottish Government

Reflecting on her considerable time in office Nicola Sturgeon spoke of the work she has been involved in supporting cared for children and Young People, creating a Scotland that is more inclusive and the Baby Box scheme gifted to every child born in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon chairing The National Advisory Council on Women and Girls meeting The National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) exists to advise the First Minister on what’s needed to tackle gender inequality in Scotland. @Scottish Government

Emma Roddick, the SNP Highlands and Islands MSP described how she felt when she heard the announcement. She said:

“Nicola Sturgeon has been an incredible leader with incomparable commitment, calm, and capability through some unpredictably difficult political storms.  Her honest, open approach over the pandemic led to trust in her leadership not seen by most administrations, and many listened intently to her daily updates. 

“The impact of her leadership, particularly on young women and girls who have watched her lead with empathy, determination, and respect is immeasurable, and I know I’m only one of a great many who now campaign for a fairer Scotland thanks to her influence. 

“Her legacy is broad but includes seven incredible electoral wins for the SNP and policies like the baby box, the Scottish Child Payment, and progressive tax policies. I did not imagine that Nicola would not be the leader who took Scotland through to independence, but I look forward to the leadership contest to decide who will.  There are many in the SNP with the knowledge and passion to do so and I’m sure we will have a quality debate on who offers the best path.  We need to continue to inspire people to join the cause – Nicola had that power, and I will be voting for the candidate who shares her progressive values and ability to connect with and convince people from all walks of life.”

The SNP in Orkney which has the largest grass roots membership of any political party in the islands added their tributes to those being paid from around the world to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Orkney SNP convener Robert Leslie said:

“Nicola has been a tremendous leader of Scotland over the past eight years, not least during the pandemic, when her daily updates gave so much reassurance to folk across the country. It is little wonder that our First Minister has consistently been the most trusted party leader in the UK.

“From the times I met her while she was in Orkney, and at conference, Nicola has shown a remarkable down-to-earth attitude and a real human touch, which shone through again in her clear and measured resignation statement.

“During her referendum campaign visit to Orkney in August 2014, when as Deputy First Minister she held a Q&A session in a packed Orkney Theatre, Nicola was very aware, on a tour of Kirkwall businesses, that she was wearing a Sheila Fleet brooch when she was about to visit Kirkness and Gorie. I had explained to her that this was where Ola Gorie’s jewellery used to be made. As we headed down the lane to the shop she asked me if she should take the brooch off, but I assured her that Duncan McLean wouldn’t be offended in the least.

“The First Minister also took the time, on the back of her closing speech of the 2017 SNP conference, to console our daughter Isla shortly after she had narrowly lost out in the Orkney MSYP elections. When Maree Todd, a Highlands and Islands MSP at the time, introduced Isla to the FM and mentioned that she had missed out in the vote, Nicola gave Isla a hug and told her she’d lost seven election campaigns before being elected. It struck me at the time that this was such a supportive and encouraging thing to say to a young woman showing interest in politics, and who now works for our Highlands and Islands MSP, Emma Roddick.

“Nicola also has a sense of mischief, and I recall, during her 2016 Holyrood campaign visit, how she and our candidate Donna Heddle basically broke away from her staff to run along Albert Street for a look around Kirsteen Stewart’s shop when they really should have been heading to another meeting – grinning as they went.

“As Nicola said on Wednesday morning, we are on the final stages of Scotland’s journey to independence, and SNP members and campaigners in the wider independence movement across Orkney need to continue to work towards that goal more than ever. Each and every independence supporter needs to be a positive voice making the case for a fairer and more equal Scotland. The First Minister has brought us very close, but we need to respect her decision to pass the baton on for the final leg, and ensure we carry it through to the finish line.”

Nicola Sturgeon will continue to be the First Minister of Scotland and carry out all the duties of that office until her successor is appointed. The SNP will also run a leadership contest within its party. Of course opposition parties can also put forward candidates to be First Minister.

The Scotland Act 1998 requires the First Minister to be a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) – appointed by the Monarch following a vote by fellow MSPs to nominate the individual.

The Scottish Parliament

First Ministers of Scotland

  • Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) 2014 to present
  • Alex Salmond (SNP) 2007 to 2014
  • Jack McConnell (Labour) 2001 to 2007
  • Henry McLeish (Labour)2000 to 2001
  • Donald Dewar (Labour) 1999 to 2000

Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. Has the free world gone crazy, first Jacinda Ardern and now Nicola Sturgeon resigning. Still she has a lasting legacy to leave to the Scottish people; a health service to be proud of, closing the education attainment between rich and poor, reducing the appalling number of deaths from drug use and making Scotland an economic powerhouse.

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