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Sturgeon’s resignation: what’s behind it?

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), has announced her resignation amidst a crisis in the independence movement, funding battles with local councils, and disputes with NHS workers and teachers over pay. Sturgeon has been visibly worn and tired in recent times due to the intense pressure and toxicity of party politics, as well as the challenges of firefighting various issues.

Do problems still lie ahead for Nicola Sturgeon even after her resignation?

In recent weeks, Sturgeon has faced criticism, from both unionists and independence supporters, over the SNP ‘Gender Recognition Reform’ law, which was blocked by the Tories in Westminster. Furthermore, some in her own party have attacked the plan to use the next general election as a “de facto referendum” on independence, which lacks support from most SNP members in polls.

Sturgeon stated that her decision to resign was “not a reaction to short-term pressures”. She acknowledged that life as a politician is much more intense and brutal than in previous years and that it takes a toll on both her and those around her.

Sturgeon took over as the leader of the SNP in 2014 after the failed independence referendum. While support for independence rose since then, Sturgeon resigns as the independence movement faces a crisis. The SNP has become more focused on becoming a mainstream pro-business government, and its vision for Scotland is similar to Keir Starmer’s for Britain. This has, arguably, undermined enthusiasm for independence, and pro-independence mobilizations on the streets are far smaller than they were five years ago.

Where powers have been available to the SNP government their record has not been good. Sturgeon’s approach to health policy has been rightly criticized, with Scotland having one of the lowest life expectancies in Western Europe and higher mortality rates in the most deprived areas compared to the wealthiest. Despite having tax-raising powers, the SNP has not substantially altered the tax balance in favour of workers.

Sturgeon was also recently questioned over her husband Peter Murrell‘s £107,000 loan to the SNP.

She said she could not recall when she first found out about the loan, and insisted that “what he does with his resources is a matter for him”. In December, it emerged that Murrell, who is the party’s chief executive, made the loan in June 2021 to help with “cash flow” following a Holyrood election campaign.

Following the election in May, SNP MP Douglas Chapman quit as the party’s treasurer, claiming he was not given enough information about finances to do his job. It came after three other members of the SNP’s finance and audit committee also resigned.

Police Scotland is also currently investigating what happened to an estimated £600,000 raised by party activists to be ring-fenced for a second independence referendum campaign. The SNP has denied any wrongdoing.

When Sturgeon announced her resignation, a journalist asked, “Have you been or do you expect to be interviewed by the police who are looking into your party’s finances?” Sturgeon replied, ”I’m not going to discuss an ongoing police investigation.”

Despite Sturgeon’s many failures, it is important to acknowledge the toxic nature of UK politics, the restrictions the system places on any individual trying to achieve any positive change and the possibly corrupting nature of power itself. We should all recognise the toll this can take on a person and at least extend understanding if we cannot manage sympathy!


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