‘I am a human being’: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon surprised everyone on Wednesday by resigning after eight years in power, opening a period of uncertainty for the independence movement to which she has devoted her life.

The departure of Nicola Sturgeon, the first woman to lead Scotland, is a shock to British political life. Coming to power after the “no” victory in the 2014 self-determination referendum, she relaunched her camp, defeated her, and accumulated electoral success, imposing herself as an implacable opponent of the conservative government in London, without ever succeeding in imposing a new vote.

Visibly moved, her voice broken, the 52-year-old leader announced to the press in Edinburgh that she would step down as soon as the Scottish National Party (SNP) had chosen her successor.

“This work is a privilege, but also very difficult”, underlined the one who said again in January, after the resignation of the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to have for her part “full of energy”.

“I could have done a few more months, maybe six months, a year,” she said, stressing that she had spent more than fifteen years in positions of responsibility. “But over time I would have had less and less energy for my work and I can only do it 100%.

Extremely popular for a long time, Nicola Sturgeon was recently weakened by a controversial law allowing gender change from the age of sixteen and without medical advice. In the aftermath, the imprisonment in a women’s institution of a transgender woman convicted of raping a woman before her transition caused a scandal, putting her on the defensive.

She denied having decided because of recent “pressures” and claims to have considered her decision for a long time, citing the changes in her family, the funeral of a loved one, and above all a function “without private life” making it difficult to “take a coffee with a friend, or going for a walk alone”.

She refused to support any potential successor and no personality stands out among the names cited – her deputy John Swinney, the young Finance Minister Kate Forbes, the Minister of Health Humza Yousaf or the former MP Angus Robertson.

His scheduled departure from the local executive, competent on many issues such as education, health or justice, is a blow to the independence cause. If she leaves the latter deadlocked, the fluctuating polls have regularly tilted in favor of a “yes” to Scottish independence in recent years, making Nicola Sturgeon a central figure in the United Kingdom, more than ever. on the verge of explosion since leaving the European Union.

“With what’s happened recently with gender recognition, it was time Nicola Sturgeon left power and it’s a good thing she realized that,” said resident Elly Watts. Edinburgh interviewed by AFP.

“She kept repeating the same thing all the time and nothing was happening. I hope that with someone new, we will be able to move forward”, abounds John Davidson, 70 years old.

Born in the industrial town of Irvine, south-west of Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon joined the SNP aged sixteen. Peter Murrell, her husband, is the general manager of the very left-leaning party.

She took over as head of the SNP and Scottish government after her predecessor Alex Salmond resigned in 2014. The Scots had then voted 55% in favor of remaining within the United Kingdom.

She had since patiently resumed the fight for independence, reinvigorated by the Brexit which the Scots had mostly opposed. But the British government remains firmly opposed to the new vote she is calling for, recently confirmed by the British Supreme Court and Nicola Sturgeon seemed to lack options to relaunch her campaign.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reacted soberly to her resignation by thanking her for her “long service”. His Minister for Scotland, Alister Jack, called on Edinburgh to take advantage of his departure to “let go of his obsession with independence”.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has called the leader, for whom independence should allow joining the EU after Brexit, a “true European”.

02/15/2023 18:35:52 – Edinburgh (AFP) – © 2023 AFP