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Nicola Sturgeon is resigning as Scotland's First Minister and SNP leader after more than eight years in the role, she announced this morning (Wednesday February 15). 

This took Scotland's governing party by surprise.

The BBC was first to say that the Scottish National Party leader was expected to make the announcement at a hastily-arranged news conference today.

This started at 11.15am in Edinburgh. 

Nicola spoke emotionally of the challenge which she faced and how she had approached the "greatest job in the world."

She spoke of the courage needed to step down "even if to many across the country and in my party it might feel too soon.

"In my head and in my heart I know that time that it is right for me for my party on for the country and so today I am announcing my intention to step down as first minister.

"I have asked the national secretary of the SNP to begin the process of electing a new party leader and I will remain in office until my successor is elected.

"I know there will be some across the country who will be upset by this decision…of course, there will be others who will…cope with the news just fine, such is the beauty of democracy

"This decision is not a reaction to short term pressures, of course, there are difficult issues confronting the government just now as ever.

"I have spent almost three decades in frontline politics, a decade-and-a-half on the top or second tier of government .

The pictures above and below show Nicola on walkabout in Stornoway town centre, and in Macleod & Macleod butchers’ shop, during the Independence Referendum campaign in 2014, and are from her own social media.


"When it comes to navigating choppy waters, resolving seemingly intractable issues or soldiering on when walking away would need a simpler option, I have plenty of experience to draw on so if this was just a question of my ability or my resilience to get through the latest period of pressure, I wouldn't be standing here today but it's not.

"This decision comes from a deeper and longer term assessment. I know it might seem sudden but I have been wrestling with it at varying levels of intensity for some weeks.

"Essentially I've been trying to answer two questions – is carrying on right for me and more important, is me carrying on right for the country, for my party, for the independence cause I have devoted my life to.

"I understand why some will automatically answer yes to that second question but in truth I have been having to work harder in recent times to convince myself that the answer to either of them when examined deeply is yes and I've reached the difficult conclusion that it's not."

She also spoke of the way that the polarising opinions about her and her work could adversely affect the success of causes in which she believes. 

The New York Times reports this morning that "The reasons for Ms. Sturgeon’s decision were not immediately clear, though she had recently been embroiled in a dispute over the Scottish government’s policy of gender self-declaration, which had erupted after a convicted rapist, Isla Bryson, was incarcerated in a women’s prison."

There's also major controversy over her plan to make the next UK General Election into a de facto referendum on Scotland's independence. 

The Secretary of State at the UK Government's Scotland Office, Alister Jack said:  "Nicola Sturgeon has been a formidable politician and I thank her for her service as First Minister for eight years.

"I particularly appreciate the work that she undertook to help us deliver two new Freeports in Scotland, bringing thousands of jobs and millions of £s of investment.

"A new First Minister will have a real chance to re-focus the Scottish Government on what they were elected to do - improve public services such as health and education that people rely on and that are vital to Scotland's future success.

“Her resignation presents a welcome opportunity for the Scottish Government to change course, and to drop its divisive obsession with independence.

"I want to see a Scottish Government that works hand in hand with the UK Government to realise our full potential as a country.”

Her Scottish parliamentary colleague, Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan, said: “I have known Nicola Sturgeon since we were both activists in the student wing of the SNP at Glasgow University.  

“She has been a phenomenal asset for the independence cause and has been a dedicated first minister with a formidable international reputation.

“She is also someone with a real work ethic and integrity which have been recognised throughout her long time in office, not least during the Covid crisis and throughout her staunch support for Scotland's place in Europe.  I wish her well for the future."

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, 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.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: "Nicola Sturgeon has led Scotland through some of the most challenging times in our history. It is right that today we pay tribute to those achievements, particularly during the pandemic.

"Regardless of our differences, she is an able politician who has stood at the forefront of Scottish politics for more than 20 years. On a human level that is worthy of respect and thanks.

"To lead your country for almost a decade is a political achievement that secures her place in history.

"While we have disagreed passionately about what is best for our people, I have never for a moment doubted her passion for Scotland.

"All too often it is easy to forget that those on the frontline of our politics carry a heavy burden - not only for themselves but for their friends and families.

"I - and my entire party - wish her the best in whatever she does next." 

Stornoway Councillor Gordon Murray said: "Nicola Sturgeon has served Scotland and the SNP with distinction.  As the first female First Minister, she has also been the longest serving incumbent in the role. Both of these are stunning achievements in themselves. 

"No one has achieved more in elected office for the SNP, for Scottish politics and for the people and communities of Scotland. Her electoral success has contributed to all of our personal and local electoral success and ensured that the SNP - the party that more people in Scotland still trust more than any other - are playing a key role in supporting communities, people and businesses at local as well as national level. 

"We are all human beings as well as politicians. Being in the front line of politics takes its toll, not only on the individuals but also on people's families and friends. No one has borne that more than Nicola Sturgeon, not least as she led our nation through the uncharted waters of a global pandemic.

"As the First Minister herself has said, her resignation also gives us all an opportunity as politicians to reflect and consider the current nature of and culture in politics.  All parties have an opportunity to try to de-polarise public debate, to focus more on issues, and to reset the tone and tenor of our discourse.  As leader of Comhairle nan Eilean SNP council group, and a local SNP political leader, we will seek to do that and reach across the divide. 

"The First Minister has an array of remarkable achievements in government; she has been a remarkable leader of the party, of government and of Scotland. We respect her decision, while also lamenting the loss of her intellect, foresight, energy, drive, passion and love for Scotland."

Nicola has been First Minister since November 2014, when she took over from Alex Salmond following the Scottish independence referendum.

The photograph above was taken in March 2017 when a packed audience, largely female, welcomed Nicola to Stornoway with a breakfast event at An Lanntair arts centre which aimed to look at the progress of women in politics and society as a whole. 

Nicola was introduced by the then An Lanntair chief executive Ellie Fletcher who thanked her for being able to come to Stornoway and launch the series of events which An Lanntair was holding to mark International Women’s Day. Nicola opened the new museum at Lews Castle later that day. 

The next election of a Scottish Parliament is due to take place on May 7, 2026. 

The First Minister is photographed below laying a wreath at the Iolaire memorial in January 2019.