Reaction pours in as Nicola Sturgeon resigns as FM after eight years

Members of her party have described her as 'the finest public servant of the devolution age'.

Reaction from across the political arena has poured in after Nicola Sturgeon announced she will step down as First Minister after eight years.

The decision has sent political shockwaves throughout the country after the news was confirmed at a surprise press conference from Bute House in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Members of her party have described her as “the finest public servant of the devolution age” following her decision to step down as leader.

She said her decision was “not a reaction to short term pressures” after spending almost “three decades in frontline politics”.

Sturgeon has said she will remain in power until a successor is confirmed.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “My thanks go to Nicola Sturgeon for her long-standing service. I wish her all the best for her next steps.

“We will continue to work closely with the @scotgov on our joint efforts to deliver for people across Scotland.”

Deputy first minister John Swinney paid tribute to Sturgeon, stating he was “very sorry” for her resignation.

He said: “She has given outstanding leadership to our country, Government and Party.”

He continued: “As the first female, and longest serving First Minister, she has achieved much for Scotland. Minimum unit pricing of alcohol, expansion of early learning, measures to tackle domestic violence, delivery of The Promise and crucially, leadership through Covid, are just some.

“For our Party, she has delivered breathtaking electoral success, winning every election during her leadership, and securing two Scottish Parliament victories.

“It has been my privilege to support her as deputy first minister. She has my warmest good wishes for the future and heartfelt thanks for all that she has done for Scotland, for the cause of independence and the Scottish National Party.”

In a statement, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Whatever our differences, we all recognise that political leadership is demanding and takes its toll on a person and their family. The SNP Government must now use this opportunity to focus on the Scottish people’s real priorities.”

Speaking to STV News, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Despite my many disagreements with Nicola Sturgeon, despite my many arguments, I think that record and that time of service is worthy of respect and worthy of thanks.”

In a statement he 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.”

He said that, while they “disagreed passionately about what is best for our people” he has never “doubted her passion for Scotland”.

He added: “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.”

Meanwhile, former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said she was “proud” to live in Nicola Sturgeon’s Scotland.

Dugdale wrote that she was “a formidable politician and she leaves office on her own terms and in a strong position to define her own legacy”.

The UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Nicola Sturgeon has been at the forefront of not just Scottish but UK politics for over two decades. She’s served with dedication and passion. I wish her all the best for her next steps.”

He added that: “Labour stands ready to be the change that Scotland needs.”

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “I want to join others in thanking Nicola Sturgeon for her work as Scotland’s First Minister and wish her well in what she does in the future.”

Potential SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes, the cabinet secretary for finance and economy, said: “Nicola Sturgeon has led our country with distinction, resilience, and compassion. Her work ethic, her care for people and her desire to serve are second to none. As other political leaders have come and gone, her length of tenure is testament to her abilities.

“There is no doubt that leadership over such a prolonged period has a huge personal cost, particularly throughout the unprecedented Covid years. It has been a privilege to serve in her Government. I wish her and her family all the very best for the next chapter.”

The party’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: “Nicola has been an inspiration to myself and countless others for so long. A formidable leader and dedicated public servant, unmatched not just in Scotland but right across these isles. She has made Scotland a better place and for that I will always be thankful.”

The party’s former Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “Nicola Sturgeon is the finest First Minster Scotland has ever had, and the finest friend anyone could hope for. When Scotland wins independence, she will have been its architect and builder. She has laid the foundations we all now stand on. We owe it to her to finish the job.”

The SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who has been an opponent of Sturgeon particularly on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, said: “It is vital that The SNP reacts to the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon in a way that is beneficial to the country and the cause of independence. Our party needs a leadership election that is about policies and not personalities.”

She continued: “We must restore the SNP’s tradition of internal party democracy, open respectful debate and intellectual rigour and we must also put the welfare of everyone living in Scotland back at the heart of our endeavours.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Today is not a day for political attacks. So I pay tribute to Nicola Sturgeon and her service to our country. Our politics are different but I recognise the dedication and immense personal commitment with which she applied herself to the role of First Minister.”

He added: “We have never been friends, but I will always remember the kindness she showed me immediately after the occasion I had to resuscitate my daughter. There was a genuine warmth and concern in the words she offered me.”

Scottish Greens co-conveners Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater issued a joint statement in which they thanked Sturgeon for her “decisive, tireless and collaborative leadership”.

The statement says: “She is the most significant political figure of the devolution era. Whoever replaces her will have the strongest foundation to build forward the argument for delivering independence, for how we ramp up efforts to tackle the climate emergency and manage the cost of living crisis which continues to impact lives daily.”

The statement added: “The Sturgeon era has been built upon compassion, determination and selflessness which have helped anchor our nation through all manner of stormy seas, particularly throughout the Covid pandemic where she led with empathy, strength and dignity.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said he was “gutted” to see Sturgeon stand down and knew “how hard she has reflected on this decision.”

He said: “I have had enormous pleasure of being in her Govt for the time she has been FM, and I can safely say she has always put interests of the Country first, and governed for all of Scotland.

“She is right, politics can be brutal, it impacts on our relationships, our families and of course on our own physical and mental health.

“I hope the FM gets to experience some kind of normality upon standing down, she certainly deserves it.

“From leading our response to the pandemic to leading the independence movement to new heights, and many achievements in-between, Nicola Sturgeon should be very proud of what she has achieved as First Minister.

“I am proud to call her my friend.”

The SNP’s former leader Alex Salmond said: “There has been no question of Nicola’s talents as a first rate political communicator and election winner and having been there I feel for her personally on the day of her resignation.

“There are two questions for the future. One is that the movement has been left with no clear strategy for independence. The previously accepted referendum route has been closed and the defacto referendum/election proposal is now, at best, up in the air.

“Secondly there is no obvious successor. There are a range of able people in the SNP but they will now be tested in the fire of leadership inheriting a range of serious Government policy challenges. It is to be hoped that those voices which wish to reunite the national movement emerge to win that contest.”

The SNP MP Mhairi Black added: “How gutted I and others feel serves only as a testament to the success of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership. Thank you.”

While Angus Robertson, the MSP for Edinburgh Central, said: “Nicola Sturgeon has been a tremendous First Minister, SNP leader, public servant and advocate of Scottish independence. It has been an honour to serve as her Depute Leader and as Cabinet Secretary. I am hugely grateful to her for all she has contributed and warmly wish her well.”

The SNP MP for Glasgow South Stewart McDonald was one of the first in his party to pay tribute to Sturgeon’s time in office.

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon is the finest public servant of the devolution age. Her public service, personal resilience and commitment to Scotland is unmatched, and she has served our party unlike anyone else. She will be an enormous loss as First Minister and SNP leader. Thank you!”

And Alison Thewliss, the SNP MP for Glasgow Central and the party’s shadow home affairs spokesperson, said: “Absolutely gutted about this. Nicola has been an incredible leader.”

Others expressed their shock at the decision, Angus B MacNeil, SNP MP, said: “This is as sudden as Jacinda Ardern… Geez.”

Amy Callaghan, East Dunbartonshire MP for the party, said Sturgeon had “been an incredible First Minister and a personal inspiration to many, myself included. She is – and will remain – a trailblazer within our movement”.

The Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Murdo Fraser was among the first political voices to react to the news on Twitter.

The strong Sturgeon opponent said: “Residents of Strichen have made a noise complaint to Aberdeenshire Council following reports of the number of champagne corks popping.”

The UK Government’s Scotland secretary Alister Jack said Sturgeon has been a “formidable politician” and thanked her for her eight years in power.

He said: “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.”

Sturgeon said she knows the “time is now” for her to stand down as Scotland’s First Minister, adding that it was “right for me, for my party and for the country”.

She has instructed the SNP to begin the process of electing a new leader. 

Reaction also poured in from beyond the political arena.

Trade union UNISON Scotland paid tribute to Sturgeon’s time in office.

 Regional secretary, Tracey Dalling said: “I wish her all the best in whatever she chooses to do next.”

She added: “We regularly disagreed but we respected that UNISON could talk through our differences with her and her ministers.

“Her resignation is an opportunity to rethink public services in Scotland.”

Murray Etherington, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “As the country’s longest serving First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon’s contribution to Scotland has been substantial. Her tenure saw some enormous challenges, not least the global Covid-19 pandemic. She provided a resilient, steadying, and reassuring presence for many during that time.

“As a former Scottish solicitor, she always understood the critical importance of a fair justice system and the needs for everyone to have access to that system, irrespective of their status or financial background.”

The Scottish Refugee Council said Sturgeon was “consistently positive and committed to supporting people seeking refugee protection in Scotland”.

And tennis star Andy Murray contemplated a career change following the announcement, writing: “Interesting vacancy. Was looking to get into politics when I finish playing.”

In response, Sturgeon teased: “I know I said I wouldn’t endorse anyone as my successor, but….”

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