Nicola Sturgeon QUITS as SNP leader amid gender identity row

Nicola Sturgeon QUITS as SNP leader saying the ‘time is right to make way’ – with claims she is ‘leaving a sinking ship’ amid meltdown over gender identity rules and fading dream of splitting the UK

  • The Scottish National Party leader to give a press conference in Edinburgh at 11am announcing she is quitting
  • Elected in 2014, she will leave office as the longest serving and first female First Minister at Holyrood
  • Embroiled in increasing vitriolic rows regarding transgender prisoners and independence support

Nicola Sturgeon dramatically quit as SNP leader today after a meltdown over her bid to loosen gender identity rules and the fading prospects of splitting the UK.

The First Minister confirmed her bombshell departure at a press conference at her official residence Bute House in Edinburgh.

She said her job was the ‘best job in the world’ and she was ‘very proud’ of what she had achieved. But she said she knew ‘instinctively’ that the ‘time is right to make way for someone else’.

‘Part of serving well is to know when the time is right to make way for someone else, and when the time comes t have the courage to so,’ Ms Sturgeon said.

‘In my head and in my heart I know that time is now, that it is right for me, my party and the country.’

Ms Sturgeon insisted her decision came from ‘duty’ and was not linked to ‘short-term’ issues. She said she had been ‘wrestling’ with whether ‘carrying on’ was right for her and Scotland.

‘In truth I have been having to work harder in recent times,’ she said. 

The shock announcement followed the torrid row over her abortive attempt to overhaul trans rights – blocked by Westminster – with claims she is ‘leaving before the ship sinks’ and she was ‘pushed’. 

Support for independence has also been waning, and there was deep unrest in nationalist circles about her plan of making the next general election a ‘de facto’ referendum after the Supreme Court prevented her from holding one without UK ministers’ approval.

The news – which ‘blindsided’ even her SNP allies – draws a line under eight years as First Minister, since she replaced one-time mentor and now sworn enemy Alex Salmond in 2014.

She is expected to continue in the role until a new SNP leader is elected. Polls have suggested the public backs frontbencher Kate Forbes taking over, but none of the potential successors have anything like the same public profile. 

Sources close to the First Minister said ‘she’s had enough’, just weeks after she told the BBC there was ‘plenty in the tank’.

However, it might not be a positive development for Rishi Sunak. One Tory source told MailOnline Keir Starmer is ‘becoming a lucky general’ and could reap the rewards in Scotland at the next election. 

‘It’s not hard to see how Labour take 10 or 15 seats off against a squabbling SNP and collapsing Conservatives as the only coherent Unionist force,’ they said.

Another Tory aide said: ‘Who knew the trans issue would break her.’

Ms Sturgeon has become embroiled in increasing vitriolic rows regarding transgender prisoners and her plans to try to force through independence. 

Support for independence is below the 45 per cent recorded in the 2014 referendum, according to the latest research for Lord Ashcroft

A Panelbase poll over the weekend found that 42 per cent want the SNP leader to stand down now, compared to 45 per cent who thought she should stay on until the next Holyrood election. Some 13 per cent were not sure

Ms Sturgeon will leave office as the longest serving and first female First Minister since the creation of the Scottish Parliament, a time which saw her lead the SNP to repeated election victories at UK, Scottish and local level. 

But a Panelbase poll published over the weekend suggested 42 per cent want Ms Sturgeon to stand down now.

Ms Sturgeon has vowed to make the next general election a ‘de facto’ referendum on Scottish independence, after the Supreme Court ruled that she cannot hold another national vote on the issue without approval from UK ministers.

However, the idea has been criticised by some in her own ranks, and the latest polling indicates that it does not have strong support from the public.

Backing for independence is currently below the 45 per cent recorded in the 2014 referendum, according to research for Lord Ashcroft.

The survey published this week also laid bare the fallout from the SNP’s abortive attempt to loosen gender identity rules.

Some 54 per cent of Scots were against the shake-up. 

Worryingly for Ms Sturgeon, just 3 per cent listed it in their top three priorities facing the country – but 46 per cent thought it was in the SNP’s main concerns.

More than two-thirds agreed that people voted for parties at elections for a variety of reasons, and that could not be interpreted as support for independence.

Even among SNP backers, 48 per cent acknowledged an election could not be a de facto referendum, with 44 per cent saying it could be.

The First Minister has continued to defend the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill passed by MSPs in December, despite growing disquiet in her own ranks.

Ms Sturgeon has been First Minister since 2014, when she replaced Alex Salmond.

The First Minister tried to avoid answering questions about Isla Byron, who was convicted of violent sex attacks on two women while a man called Adam Graham.

The shake-up would reduce the age limit for formally changing gender to 16, and remove the need for a medical diagnosis.

Ms Sturgeon has said she still intends to challenge the UK Government’s use of Section 35 to block the law.

Ms Sturgeon struggled at a press conference last week as she was repeatedly challenged on whether she regards trans rapist Isla Bryson as a woman. 

Bryson was initially send to a women’s prison before being transferred to the male estate following an outcry. 

SNP MP Stewart McDonald described Ms Sturgeon as ‘the finest public servant of the devolution age’ amid reports of her expected departure as Scottish First Minister.

‘Nicola Sturgeon is the finest public servant of the devolution age,’ the MP for Glasgow South tweeted, sharing a photograph of himself with Ms Sturgeon.

‘Her public service, personal resilience and commitment to Scotland is unmatched, and she has served our party unlike anyone else. She will be an enormous loss as First Minister and SNP leader. Thank you!’

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central and the party’s home affairs spokesperson, tweeted: ‘Absolutely gutted about this. Nicola has been an incredible leader.’

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