Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon resigns, no obvious successor in place
Last updated on February 17th, 2023 at 11:47 am
In a hastily-arranged news conference at her official residence in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her surprise decision to stand down, after over eight years in the role and with no obvious successor in place.
In addition to being the longest-serving first minister, the 52-year-old is also the first woman to hold the position.
Sturgeon has been working as an MSP since the Scottish parliament was officially opened by the Queen and received its full law-making powers in 1999. She became the deputy leader of the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) in 2004, and the leader following the independence referendum in 2014, taking over from Alex Salmond who decided to resign after the country voted 55% to remain as part of the UK.
With no obvious successor in place, the party’s national executive committee will meet Thursday to decide on a timetable for a leadership race. Potential candidates include Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson, Justice Secretary Keith Brown, and Kate Forbes – who was finance secretary before her maternity leave.
Sturgeon plans to remain in office until her replacement is found. She will submit her resignation as the first minister to the King once the next SNP leader is elected.
UK’s Supreme Court ruled last November the Scottish government cannot hold a second referendum on independence without approval from the British Parliament, sending a tough blow to Scotland’s ruling party.
Sturgeon said in response that she would turn the next British general election into a de facto referendum, in an effort to increase pressure on London to grant another vote.
In recent months, the politician also became embroiled in a row over a gender recognition bill Scotland passed to make it incredibly easier for people to change their legal gender.
While the London government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it would block the bill as it could impact the law in the rest of the UK, the row over transgender policies also brought the treatment of transgender people in Scottish prisons under the spotlight.
The first minister was posed to a number of difficult questions after a transgender woman facing charges over rape was initially placed in an all-female prison.
Sturgeon said she intended to remain active in politics in her resignation announcement.