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Nicola Sturgeon announces plan to resign, saying the ‘time is now’ to go

Photo by Jane Barlow/PA

By Sam Blewett, Craig Paton and Laura Paterson, PA

Nicola Sturgeon has announced she will stand down as First Minister after eight years, arguing that resigning is the best step for herself, her party and for Scotland.

In a shock announcement, the SNP leader told a press conference on Wednesday that she believes it is the “time is now” to stand aside but denied she is reacting to “short-term pressures” after a series of political setbacks.

The longest serving – and first female – First Minister said from her residence at Bute House in Edinburgh that she will remain in office while the SNP select her successor.

“Since my very first moments in the job I have believed a part of serving well would be to know almost instinctively when the time is right to make way for someone else,” she said.

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

Ms Sturgeon, who guided the nation through the coronavirus pandemic and led the SNP to repeated election victories at UK, Scottish and local level, acknowledged the “physical and mental impact” of the role.

“If the question is can I battle on for another few months then the answer is yes, of course I can,” the 52-year-old said.

“But if the question is can I give this job everything it demands and deserves for another year. let alone for the remainder of this parliamentary term, give it every ounce of energy that it needs in the way that I have strived to do every day for the last eight years, the answer honestly is different.”

The First Minister has suffered a series of political setbacks in recent months as her Government sought to push through gender reforms, only for them to be blocked by Westminster.

She has also struggled to deal with the housing of transgender prisoners in women’s facilities after a double rapist was sent to a female jail.

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the “choppy waters” but insisted her resignation was not in response to the “latest period of pressure”.

“This decision comes from a deeper and longer term assessment,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon had planned to fight the next general election as a de facto referendum on Scottish independence, but her exit now raises questions about the immediate future of the cause itself.

But she vowed to continue in politics and said her life-long cause of independence is “being won”.

Sir Keir Starmer will also be closely following the next steps as the rise of the SNP to the detriment of Labour has played a role in keeping the party out of power in Westminster.

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