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Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon resigns

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-02-15 18:43

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon reacts as she answers questions on Scottish Government issues, during a news conference at St Andrews House, in Edinburgh, Britain, Feb 6, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation at a press conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday, saying her decision comes from "a deeper and longer-term assessment."

"Today, I am announcing my intention to step down as first minister and leader of my party," she said. Sturgeon also leads the Scottish National Party (SNP). "I will remain in office until my successor is in place."

"If all parties were to take this opportunity to try to depolarize public debate just a bit, to focus more on issues than on personalities and to reset the tone and tenor of our discourse, then this decision -- right for me and I believe for my party and the country -- may also prove to be good for our politics," she said.

Sturgeon became party leader and head of the Scottish government in November 2014 following Scotland's independence referendum that year. She is Scotland's first female first minister and the longest serving one.

But she has recently suffered some political setbacks. The United Kingdom (UK) Supreme Court ruled last November that Scotland does not have the power to hold a new referendum on independence without the approval of the UK Parliament, dealing a blow to her plans.

Also, public anger over a transgender rapist, who was sent to a women's prison, may have knocked the first minister's approval, a YouGov analysis showed on Wednesday.

A January survey showed Sturgeon's rating change from 50 percent in favor and 43 percent not in favor in early October to 44 percent and 48 percent, respectively, the analysis noted.

Sturgeon told journalists on Wednesday that her decision is "not a reaction to short-term pressures" but "comes from a deeper and longer-term assessment."

Then she said her "preference of using the next Westminster (UK general) election as a de facto referendum is well known," arguing that this "decision must be taken by the SNP collectively, not by me alone."

"We are at a critical moment. The blocking of a referendum as the accepted constitutional route to independence is a democratic outrage. But it puts the onus on us to decide how Scottish democracy will be protected and to ensure that the will of the Scottish people prevails," Sturgeon said.

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

"To achieve that, we must reach across the divide in Scottish politics. And my judgment now is that a new leader will be better able to do this," she said.

In his response on social media, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak thanked Sturgeon for her "long-standing service," pledging to "continue to work closely with the Scottish government on our joint efforts to deliver for people across Scotland."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Sturgeon "has led Scotland through some of the most challenging times in our history."

"Regardless of our differences, she is an able politician, who has stood at the forefront of Scottish politics for more than 20 years," Sarwar added in a statement published on social media.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross was more critical. "Instead of trying to unite the country in the wake of the 2014 referendum, Nicola Sturgeon refused to accept the result," he said.

"Her entire tenure as first minister has been characterized by relentless agitating for another vote on separation -- governing in her party's interests, rather than Scotland's," he said.

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