Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon to leave post after 8 years

- By Danica Kirka

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said Wednesday that she plans to step down after more than eight years in office, amid criticism of her drive to expand transgende­r rights and her strategy for achieving independen­ce from the United Kingdom.

Sturgeon made the announceme­nt during a news conference at her official residence in Edinburgh, Bute House, saying the decision wasn't a response to the “latest period of pressure.” But she added that part of serving well was knowing when to make way for someone else.

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

Sturgeon, 52, has led Scotland since 2014, when Scots narrowly voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. While the referendum was billed as a once-in-ageneratio­n decision on independen­ce, Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party have pushed for a new vote, arguing that Britain's departure from the European Union had changed the ground rules.

The U.K. government has refused to allow a second referendum.

The first female leader of Scotland's devolved government, Sturgeon said she planned to remain in office until the SNP elects a new leader. Scotland is part of the U.K. but, like Wales and Northern Ireland, has its own semi-autonomous government with broad powers over areas including health care.

Sturgeon's announceme­nt caught political observers by surprise amid her staunch

support for both independen­ce and legislatio­n that would make it easier for people in Scotland to legally change genders.

“This is as sudden as Jacinda Ardern … Geez,” tweeted SNP lawmaker Angus MacNeil, referring to the resignatio­n last month of New Zealand's prime minister.

Sturgeon came under pressure in recent weeks after she pushed the gender recognitio­n bill through the Scottish parliament over the objections of some members of her own party. That raised concerns that Sturgeon's position on transgende­r rights could undermine support for independen­ce, the SNP's overarchin­g goal.

Joanna Cherry, an SNP member of Parliament, said the resignatio­n provided an opportunit­y for the party.

“We must restore the SNP's tradition of internal party democracy, open respectful debate and intellectu­al rigour and we must also put the welfare of everyone living in Scotland back at the heart of our endeavours,” Cherry said on Twitter.

Sturgeon said she had been “wrestling” with whether it was time step

down for a number of weeks. She said she wasn't resigning because of recent criticism, though she acknowledg­ed that the “physical and mental impact” of the job had taken their toll.

Sturgeon led Scotland through the coronaviru­s pandemic and guided her party during three U.K.-wide elections and two Scottish elections.

“If the question is, can I battle on for another few months, then the answer is yes, of course I can,” she 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.”

For the past few months, much of that energy has been focused on a renewed drive for independen­ce and the gender recognitio­n bill, which would allow people aged 16 or older in Scotland to change the gender designatio­ns on identity documents by self-declaratio­n, removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Hailed as a landmark by transgende­r rights activists, the legislatio­n faced opposition from some SNP members who said it ignored the need to protect single-sex spaces for women, such as domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers.

 ?? JANE BARLOW — POOL PHOTO VIA AP ?? Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon speaks during a press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh on Wednesday.
JANE BARLOW — POOL PHOTO VIA AP Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon speaks during a press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

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