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Politics / Local politicians respond to Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to resign

First minister Nicola Sturgeon with SNP candidate Tom Wills in Lerwick in August 2019.
Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

NICOLA Sturgeon is to step down from the post of first minister of Scotland and SNP party leader.

The decision, announced during a press conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday morning, came as a surprise to party members and politicians from across the political spectrum.

Sturgeon, an MSP since 1999 and the country’s first minister for the last eight years, said she had been wrestling with the decision to step down for a number of weeks but felt the time was now right for someone else to lead the country.

She insisted her decision was not a reaction to any short-term pressure on her government, but about who could best reach across the political divide that symbolises Scottish politics.

“The longer any leader is in office the more opinions about him become fixes and very hard to change, and that matters,” she said.

“Individual polls come and go but I am firmly of the view that there is now majority support for independence in Scotland, but support needs to be solidified, and it needs to grow further if our independent Scotland is to have the best possible foundation.

“And to achieve that, we much reach across the divide in Scottish politics. And my judgement is that a new leader will be better able to do this, someone about whom the mind of almost everyone in the country is not already made up, for better or worse.”

SNP councillor Robbie McGregor.

She will stay in post until the SNP has voted in a new leader, which can take a few months.

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Local SNP stalwart and southend councillor Robbie McGregor said Sturgeon’s announcement came as a complete shock to him.

“I had the privilege of having known Nicola for more years than I care to remember. I was involved with her as far as pharmacy is concerned during her time as health minister, and she has always been a good friend and a superb leader of her party,” he said.

“She certainly won’t be walking away from politics and can now concentrate full time on getting independence for her country.”

Paying tribute he added: “She said herself that somebody shouldn’t be in the top job indefinitely, and I think this is a courageous decision for her to make.”

He added that he couldn’t sense any tiredness in the cause for independence within the party, despite the latest poll figures suggesting diminishing support for leaving the union.

Meanwhile, opposition politicians acknowledged Sturgeon’s political talent and expressed the hope for a change in direction of Scottish politics.

Alistair Carmichael is the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland.Photo: Shetland News

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said: “Whatever else there is to be said, Nicola Sturgeon was clearly an enormous political talent. To have served in the Scottish Parliament since 1999 and become the longest serving First Minister is no small feat.

“We shall now never know what might have been achieved in health, education, policing or transport if that had been where she had focussed her attention rather than on pursuing nationalist division.

“The biggest legacy that Nicola Sturgeon has is her success in maintaining and entrenching identity divides in Scotland. I hope that this will be an opportunity to move on from the nationalism and division of the past years – and reach a government that takes actual governing more seriously.”

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart added: “Shetland has been neglected by the Scottish Government in many ways during the First Minister’s incumbency. Local services face continued challenges with cuts in funding and across Scotland mental health, education and our NHS have been left in crisis.

“Those challenges, along with ferries fiascos, recovery from Covid, and the cost-of-living crisis have not gone away with the resignation of the First Minister.”

Secretary of State for Scotland 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 pounds 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.”

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