Nicola Sturgeon stands down as First Minister of Scotland

The SNP leader announced her intention to stand aside at a press conference at Bute House on Wednesday.

Key facts

  • Nicola Sturgeon announces intention to resign as First Minister after eight years in office.
  • Outgoing FM said ‘short term pressures’ not to blame for her decision.
  • Sturgeon to remain in role until successor is found and will stay as backbench MSP.
  • Plans for new leader to be set out in due course.

Nicola Sturgeon said she has “freed the SNP” after announcing her intention to resign as the First Minister of Scotland.

The SNP leader said she could “no longer give the job everything it deserved” more than eight years after taking office in an emotional press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh.

The FM said she had “wrestled” with the decision for a considerable period, but added there was a greater “intensity and brutality” of life as a leading politician in the modern era, citing the “physical and mental impact” on her as a major factor.

Sturgeon, who will remain in office until her successor is announced, added the move was not a reaction to “short-term pressures,” but rather to allow the party the best opportunity to pursue independence “without worrying about the perceived implications for [her] leadership”.

However, she will not be leaving politics altogether, and pledged to drive the independence campaign as an MSP “from the back benches”.

“I am proud to stand here as the first female and longest serving incumbent of this office and I am very proud of what has been achieved in the years I’ve been blessed to do this,” she told an assembled audience of journalists at the FM’s official residence.

“However, since the very first moment in the job, I have believed that part of serving well would be to know, almost instinctively, when the time is right, to make way for someone else.

“And when that time came, to have the courage to do so, even if to many across the country and in my party, might feel it too soon.

“In my head and in my heart I know that time is now. That it is right for me, for my party and for the country.”

Sturgeon has been a member of the Scottish Parliament since 1999 having joined the SNP as a teenager.

She became deputy leader in 2004 and succeeded Alex Salmond in November 2014 following the Yes campaign’s defeat in the 2014 independence vote.

She led the party to eight successful election campaigns in eight years at local, Scottish and UK level.

Sturgeon set out her intention for a second independence ballot in October 2023, but that was blocked by the UK Government and later the Supreme Court.

The outgoing FM wants the SNP to fight the next general election as a de facto referendum, but there has been some opposition to that plan within the party.

Sturgeon reasserted her belief the party was “firmly on course to win the next election, while our opponents remain adrift”.

But she said support needed to “grow further if an independent Scotland is to have the best possible foundation”.

She added: “My preference of using the next Westminster election as a de facto referendum is well known.

 “I have always been clear that decision must be taken by the SNP collectively, not by me alone, but I know my party well enough to understand that my view as leader would carry enormous, probably decisive, weight, when our conference meets next month.

“And I cannot in good conscience ask the party to choose an option based on my judgment whilst not being convinced that I would be there as leader to see it through.”

However she would not give an opinion on who she wanted to succeed her as SNP leader.

“What I do know is that the SNP is awash with talented individuals,” she said.

“What I’m looking forward to, and I think the country will enjoy over these next few weeks, is seeing that talent and seeing that array of talent.”

She added: “I believe I have led this country closer to independence, I believe we are in the final phase of that journey.

“I believe that my successor, whoever he or she may be, will lead Scotland to independence, and I’ll be there cheering him or her on every step of the way.”

Sturgeon said she hoped to stay in parliament until at least the next election, but did not say whether her resignation should trigger a snap Holyrood poll.

The SNP previously said it would welcome a UK general election in the wake of the resignations of Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

She said she would consider her political future at the time of the next Scottish vote, which is not currently scheduled to take place until May 2026.

Sturgeon also thanked her constituents in Glasgow Southside for supporting her “through thick and thin”, adding: “I look forward to continuing to serve my constituency to the best of my ability.”

On the kind of issues she wants to be “a voice on”, she said she will be the “strongest most strenuous advocate” for the reforms to the criminal justice system around improving access to justice for victims of sexual offences.

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