Ruth Wishart

ODDLY, perhaps, one of the most sympathetic lines on the resignation of the First Minister came from former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson who said politics were “attritional” and “all-consuming” and that Nicola Sturgeon had put in a huge shift. Ms Sturgeon said as much herself when she talked about the job needing every ounce of personal energy but also bringing in its wake a dearth of personal privacy and impacting on any semblance of normal family life and relationships.

In fact, politicians from all parties paid warm tribute to Sturgeon as someone who has built a formidable reputation on the UK stage as well as her local one, and who has high name recognition across Europe and the United States as well. That she has been a brilliant communicator is beyond dispute – even Alex Salmond’s verdict mentioned that skillset in his Twitter reaction.

Generosity was less visible elsewhere on social media, where some of her detractors felt unable to take a timeout from their kneejerk hostility. I’m not sure that fessing up to being human and therefore not immune to the impact of constant slings and arrows of supposed political misfortunes qualifies as a negative.

It’s not given to all party leaders to determine the manner and timing of their leaving – just ask Boris Johnson! So, in that regard, and having apparently wrestled with the decision for many weeks if not months, she, like her New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern, decided that the timing of her announcement should reflect her own instincts rather than find herself decapitated whilst still in office.

READ MORE: The maddest media reactions to Nicola Sturgeon's resignation

I wouldn’t want that coincidence of resignations to be regarded as a sign of female weakness in the top job, though it should perhaps reflect a less overweening ego than some male counterparts!

The timing has other important implications, not least the fact that she’s chosen to bail out in advance of the special SNP conference next month where the next phase of the independence campaign will be decided, and party members will vote on the merits or otherwise of turning an election into a plebiscite. Ms Sturgeon said she didn’t want that conversation to be conducted through the prism of her own leadership, although the national executive committee has already laid out specific options. We will know soon enough if her departure ushers in a less constrained debate.

Though often impatient about her legendary caution; I’ve never doubted Nicola Sturgeon’s capacity for leadership.

George Kerevan

HER leaving speech was typically polished, empathetic, compelling and – sometimes – politically ambivalent. I remember having a quiet coffee with Nicola in Glasgow Central Station in the 1990s when we were both on the trail of securing a nomination. She was in jeans, without makeup, edgy –a far cry from her commanding First Minister persona.

History will remember her unrivalled string of election victories. That is, after all, what democratic leaders are for. And it is too trivial to blame her personally for the fact independence has not been achieved yet – we are fighting the might of the British state and media, remember.

But there are negatives in her balance sheet. Her historic role has been to convert the SNP from a party of the social democratic left into a broader liberal church in which the new, meritocratic middle class has found a political home. The gain is that this is precisely the group who largely voted No in the 2014 referendum, fearing exile from the EU. The loss is that to secure their allegiance to the Yes cause, the SNP has embraced gradualism, globalism and uncritical support for both the EU and Nato.

Above all, the First Minister has eschewed those parts of the indy movement who might upset her new middle-class allies – she was notoriously averse to appearing at AUOB rallies. And she has had no truck with “risky” ideas such as a Scottish currency.

In all this, it is possible to discern cautious pragmatism. But breaking up the British state – the ultimate test of her career – may require a bolder approach from her successor. History will be the judge.

Unfortunately, whoever replaces Nicola will be relatively unknown to most of the electorate. And the SNP has not had a truly contested leadership contest for nearly two decades. Here we may discover Nicola’s most questionable legacy. She and her husband Peter Murrell (presumably now to quit as SNP CEO?) were responsible for imposing a degree of top-down control unknown in the party’s history.

Again, this can be seen as a necessary organisational discipline in an era dominated by social media. But this bureaucratic approach – more so than the Salmond trial – was what really provoked the Alba split in 2022. With Nicola and Murrell gone, the SNP’s famous internal discipline may falter. Unless Nicola’s successor makes the unity of the indy movement their first priority.

Ellie Gomersall

One of the key messages from Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation speech was somewhat obvious but needed to be said: “I am a human being, as well as a politician”. It can be all too easy to forget that behind every politician, even the leader of our country, is a human being.

I’ve always found Sturgeon’s humanity to be one of her most endearing traits. As a Green, there have been many issues I’ve vehemently disagreed with Sturgeon on, but her deeply personable approach has always meant that I’ve had a great deal of respect for her as an individual. As a resident and Scottish Greens activist in her constituency of Glasgow Southside, the majority of interactions I’ve had with her personally have been outside polling stations, each of us campaigning for different parties. And yet in those moments, it never felt like she was First Minister – it felt like we were both activists for our respective parties, each asking voters to put their trust in us because we genuinely believed our manifestos were the best vision for Scotland.

One of the most surprising – and depressing – elements of Sturgeon’s shock resignation is that there really is no obvious successor to fill her shoes. Frontrunners such as current Finance Secretary Kate Forbes would represent a significant step away from the more socially progressive direction of the Scottish Government under Sturgeon, as Forbes’s previous comments around abortion access and trans rights have caused great fear for many women and LGBT+ Scots. A Scottish Government led by Forbes or any other more socially conservative SNP politician could also present a threat to the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and the Greens, putting at risk the progressive agenda set out at the start of this session of parliament.

For all the things I might disagree with her on, I suspect that history will be kind to Sturgeon’s premiership. Her leadership throughout the pandemic was undeniably strong, and though I often wished she would go further, she has made a significant impact in making Scotland a better place to live. Her successor has a number of big challenges ahead of them – from tackling the cost of living crisis to securing Scotland’s independence – but their biggest challenge of all will be following the legacy of one of the most important and influential politicians in our nation’s history.

Kevin McKenna

THE resignation of a political leader always elicits a range of emotions, not all of them dictated by the prejudices of your tribe. Only the most implacable of Nicola Sturgeon’s enemies would deny that she gave everything in the service of her country.

In particular, her leadership and obvious humanity during the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic were exemplary and contrasted starkly with the dangerous chaos unfolding at the heart of the UK Government. If this proves to be the sole highlight of her Bute House tenancy then it’s not an insubstantial one.

I fear though, that history will not look kindly on her eight years as the country’s leader. If you’ve been a long-time and fervent supporter of Scottish independence you might characterise Sturgeon’s premiership as one long catalogue of missed opportunities. No other politician of her generation began their tenure in possession of such a large silver spoon and none of them enjoyed so many advantages during it.

The economic and cultural havoc wrought by the most fanatical form of Brexit together with the Tories embedding themselves further each year in a culture of extreme right-wing politics helped tighten her grip on power.

And yet, as each victory came and went it soon became obvious there was no strategy for an independence referendum beyond polite requests for a Section 30 order from Westminster and the usual performance art when they were inevitably refused.

Inevitably, a confluence of intractable domestic issues would gather that no amount of tub-thumping about Scotland’s democratic will being thwarted would mask: The annual addiction death toll; the cringeworthy failure to deliver a couple of ferries; the inability to bridge the schools attainment gap; the chronic failures in government of the Scottish Greens whose incompetence has become a national embarrassment.

Perhaps her most profound deficiency has been in the absurdly low calibre of those she promoted. Personal loyalty and adherence to an extreme cultural agenda seemed to count for more than talent. Perhaps, if the First Minister had chosen more wisely, she might have been able to steer through gender reform without it eroding the hard-won, sex-based rights of women.

When dangerous fantasy hit the reality of ordinary people’s lived experiences trust began to ebb away from Sturgeon and her acolytes. As did percentage points in favour of Yes. Independence now seems a far more distant prospect than it was in 2015.

Kelly Given

I was 17 when my mum dragged me to a community hall in Galashiels, fresh from my Higher Business exam, to listen to a panel discussion on independence. My mum had become involved in the Yes campaign in the months prior (to the first referendum?) and as this would be my first time voting, she wanted me to listen to both sides before making my decision.

Naturally, I was furious about being dragged to the Borders for what I’d anticipated to be a thoroughly boring evening of out-of-touch politicians that neither inspired me nor spoke to the things that mattered to me. I’ll be brutally honest, most of the speeches from that evening lived up to my expectations.

However, there was one panellist that quickly altered my misconceptions, the Deputy First Minister of Scotland at the time – Nicola Sturgeon.

She stood up and spoke passionately, honestly and determinedly about the benefits of independence and the journey she’d taken to get to where she was. She spoke directly to the young people in the room and insightfully about women’s representation in the political sphere.

For the first time, I felt like I could be seen and heard in this space. For those few minutes that she spoke, I saw myself in the woman standing in front of me. A woman you could tell had torn down walls to not only be in that community hall fighting for her cause but to pave the way for the women that would come after her.

That night changed the direction of my life drastically and lit a fire in me that I had been struggling to find on my path to a career. The years that followed were incredibly challenging as an undiagnosed autistic person, but throughout it all, I built a career in politics and found my passion, community and purpose within a party now led by the very woman that showed me it was possible to begin with.

Politics aside, Nicola Sturgeon has been an immutable force for good in Scotland and across the world. She showed 17-year-old me the power that I had and although I’m desperately sad to see her go – I hope she enjoys the well-earned rest. Jackie Weaver called me a “Nicola Sturgeon wannabe” on Make Me Prime Minister and I count that as one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever had!

Thank you for everything Nicola, we’ll take it from here.

Wee Ginger Dug

Sturgeon has been subjected to an intense, constant, and unceasing barrage of criticism, not all of it justified, and much of which has been unnecessarily and unpleasantly personal. Some of which have verged into deeply nasty abusiveness, going way beyond anything that’s the normal back and forth of politics. This kind of attack is bad enough when it comes from your political opponents, but psychologically it is far more difficult to shrug off when it comes from those who are supposed to be on your side. But she has dealt with those attacks with a personal dignity that is alien to those who resort to crude personal abuse against her.

Sturgeon certainly recognised that she has come to embody division and divisiveness in her resignation speech. I suspect that she was not referring to the divisions between die-hard British nationalists and independence supporters, but rather to the divisions within the independence movement. As we approach a critical moment in the campaign for independence, a historic decision on how to proceed in the face of the anti-democratic intransigence of the anglo-British Brexit parties, the need for unity within the independence campaign has never been more vital. It is to Sturgeon’s immense credit that she has the personal and political maturity to recognise that much-needed unity cannot be achieved while she remains the leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland. But one thing is certain – those critics who decried her as a careerist have been comprehensively proven wrong.

Toni Giugliano

Leaders like Nicola Sturgeon are hard to come by. As is the unique blend of values and personal attributes that have made her the dominating force in Scottish politics that she is today. Human, in touch with her electorate, communicator extraordinaire, resilient, detail-driven and a serial election winner – she remains head and shoulders above every one of her opponents.

But it’s her progressive, compassionate, left-of centre politics and her drive to fight poverty and inequality that will define her time in office. Internationalist, a champion for equality and a lifelong campaigner for Scottish independence – it’s those values that the party must firmly grasp and hold onto as we search for our next leader.

Which is why the debate on strategy planned for March 19th must surely be postponed till after the Leadership election has concluded, for the reasons that Nicola alluded to during her resignation speech. The NEC resolution sets out the political direction from the current leadership of the party – and it would be wrong for a departing leader to bind their successor over a proposed strategy.

So let’s take stock, reflect and get the sequencing right – our focus must now turn to running a full, comprehensive Leadership Contest where our membership is fully engaged and where each candidate can present their own vision and strategy on how independence can be won. Choosing our next Leader is just as crucial as choosing the right strategy for independence – so let’s not cut any corners and take the time we need to get it right.

READ MORE: Who is Kate Forbes? SNP minister who could replace Nicola Sturgeon

As the SNP’s Policy Development Convener I know how hard members and branches have worked to prepare for Special Conference – those efforts must not go to waste. The debate on strategy must take place – either through a Conference or National Council soon after the party’s Leader is declared – and no later than early summer.

Personally I’ll be looking out for candidates who will prioritise building and refreshing the prospectus for independence through a combination of government and party resources so that we can shift the dial and build public support for independence to well beyond 50%. I’ll be looking out for candidates determined to establish and resource a nation-wide grassroots Yes campaign to reach out to people beyond the confines of party politics. And I’ll be looking out for candidates who are candid about the challenges ahead and set out a clear and legal pathway to achieving independence in Europe.

But today is first and foremost a day for reflection. What struck me most from Nicola’s resignation speech was her account of the intensity and brutality of politics in the modern digital world. Our goal is not simply to achieve independence but to build a nation – one that is a little less polarised, more united and founded on kindness and respect. It will take all of us to achieve, and make no mistake – whoever succeeds Nicola will need our full support.

The First Minister deserves our thanks – for steering us through the darkest of days during the pandemic, for shielding Scotland against the worst of Westminster policies, for making Scotland a fairer place to live and for taking us the closest we’ve ever been to achieving independence.