Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon steps down

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has been in office since 2014, has announced her resignation. Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party have faced fierce criticism recently because of the lack of progress on Scottish independence as well as other issues. Europe's press discusses the implications of her departure.

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Dnevnik (SI) /

Anti-independence parties rejoice

Scottish independence seems less likely after Sturgeon's departure, Dnevnik concludes:

“The Conservatives [in London], who have always been political pygmies in Scotland, as well as the opposition Labour Party, which was the leading political force in Scotland for many years, are celebrating - quietly rather than loudly - her departure. Both are opposed to Scottish independence and believe that Nicola Sturgeon's departure will delay it. They are probably right. Much depends on who succeeds her and whether the successor dares to make the next Scottish election a referendum on independence, as Sturgeon intended.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Proponent of a damaging dream

It's a good thing that Nicola Sturgeon's goal of independence has failed so far, says NRC:

“Sturgeon successfully stood up to Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and other Brexiteers who preached a contrarian brand of nationalism. However, Sturgeon and the populist Brexiteers are not total opposites. They all glorify a certain kind of independence without taking a realistic view of the disadvantages. That Brexit only brought losers is clear at this stage. ... Blowing up the 1707 Acts of Union that bound Scotland and England together is just as damaging. ... As much as Sturgeon liked to talk about independence, she could give no assurance that it could be arranged without causing damage.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Secession remains key topic on the agenda

The struggle for Scottish independence will continue, predicts The Irish Times:

“Independence remains the defining issue in Scottish politics and is likely to stay so regardless of who picks up the SNP baton. Separatist sentiment is not fading. ... Unionists may celebrate the end of a formidable foe, but a situation in which about half of Scots want independence yet democracy denies them a vehicle to secure it cannot be sustained indefinitely. ... This is a good day for unionists. Nonetheless, those who want to preserve the UK would be foolish to rest easy and assume the fight is now won.”

The Scotsman (GB) /

Big shoes to fill

Finding a worthy replacement for Sturgeon won't be easy, says The Scotsman:

“She will live long in the national memory, not least for her leadership through the Covid pandemic, when she distinguished herself as a calm, empathetic communicator able to soothe the concerns of her nation and win envious glances from voters in the rest of the UK, and further abroad. She will also be remembered as a powerful campaigner for the SNP, her communication skills deployed to present a rational, serious and intellectually confident civic nationalism that allowed the movement to largely dodge the unpleasant questions - of presumptions of superiority, of selfishness, of sectarian divide.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Many achievements

Der Tagesspiegel also honours Sturgeon's achievements:

“After the Brexit referendum in 2016, she was the first and for a long time the only one who - with all due respect to the majority - gave courage to the 48 percent of Britons (and 62 percent of Scots) who wanted to remain part of the EU. During the Covid pandemic, her daily appearances offered a soothing contrast to the turmoil in London under then Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Sturgeon made life difficult for five Conservative prime ministers, fought tenaciously for concessions for her nation, and repeatedly secured large sums of money in London. Under her leadership, the SNP sailed from election victory to election victory. ... No doubt she could have continued to lead more or less unchallenged for years to come.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Brutality takes its toll

Women don't cling to power the way men do, La Stampa writes with approval:

“New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern has introduced a new pattern of behaviour: women resigning. Resignation - a word which is virtually unknown on the planet of male politics unless it is imposed or impossible to avoid and grudgingly accepted. ... Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, on the other hand, has no problem saying that she is not only a politician but also a human being. And that the brutality of modern politics takes its toll on politicians and those around them.”

The Times (GB) /

A story of failure

But for The Times, Nicola Sturgeon does not deserve the praise being showered on her:

“Her hand forced by mistakes of her own making, Ms Sturgeon has hastily abandoned a government without grip, a party without a plan, and a people failed miserably by both. First minister for eight years, deputy for seven ... nobody has spent as long at the commanding heights of Scottish politics as Ms Sturgeon. ... The reality of the first minister's resignation is altogether more prosaic than the tale of personal torment she so deftly told yesterday. It is a story of hubris, misjudgement and failure.”

Polityka (PL) /

Capitulation in the face of polarisation

In her explanatory statement, Sturgeon refers above all to the poisoned political climate in the UK, Polityka notes:

“The main reason for the resignation seems to be weariness, not only with the office but with the general state of the British political landscape. She says that there is a climate that encourages polarisation when the priority of each party should be to provide better living conditions for citizens. She complains that more and more people see her through the prism of personal sympathies or antipathies rather than with a focus on actual decisions.”