Nicola Sturgeon Stuns With Resignation Announcement

She has led Scotland since 2014
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 15, 2023 7:30 AM CST
Nicola Sturgeon Stuns With Resignation Announcement
Nicola Sturgeon speaks during a press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh, Wednesday, Feb. 15 2023.   (Jane Barlow/Pool photo via AP)

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday announced her resignation. The move comes amid criticism of her drive to make it easier for people to legally change genders, though the first female leader of Scotland said that the decision to leave was "not a reaction to short-term pressures. ... Of course there are difficult issues confronting the government just now, but when is that ever not the case?'' she said. During a news conference at her official residence in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said that part of serving well is knowing when to make way for someone else. "In my head and in my heart I know that time is now," she told reporters. "That it’s right for me, for my party and my country."

Sturgeon, 52, has led Scotland since 2014, when Scots narrowly voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. While the referendum was billed as a once-in-a-generation decision on independence, Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party have pushed for a new vote, arguing that Britain’s departure from the European Union had changed the ground rules. The UK government has refused to allow a second referendum, reports the AP. The BBC observes that with her resignation, Sturgeon exits "without achieving the one overriding ambition which first sparked her interest in politics as a teenager—Scottish independence."

Sturgeon's announcement caught political observers by surprise amid her staunch support for both independence and legislation that would make it easier for people in Scotland to legally change genders. Indeed, NPR flags a BBC interview she gave just three weeks ago in which she spoke of having "plenty left in the tank." But she also spoke to the toll of modern political life, saying, "The nature and form of modern political discourse means there is a much greater intensity—dare I say it, brutality—to being a politician than in years gone by." CNN reports she won't leave office until the SNP appoints a new leader.

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Some members of the SNP have criticized Sturgeon for saying she would make the next Scottish parliament election a de facto referendum on independence. The party is set to hold a conference on the strategy next month, with some members saying it won’t work and others criticizing Sturgeon for waiting too long to press ahead. As for the gender recognition bill, it would allow people age 16 or older in Scotland to change the gender designations on identity documents by self-declaration, removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. While the Scottish parliament approved the legislation, it has been blocked by the British government, which requires a medical diagnosis; Sturgeon has vowed to take the British government to court.

(More Nicola Sturgeon stories.)

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