Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has this week talked down speculation that she may be leaving frontline politics, stating that she intends to remain in her position for the full-term of the current Scottish Parliament and take the “necessary steps” for a second referendum on Scottish independence to happen.
The Scottish National Party [SNP] leader has served as first minister of Scotland since 2014 and was re-elected in May this year after her party secured 64 seats at Holyrood, a record number for any Scottish parliamentary election and just one short of an overall majority.
The 51-year-old has regularly spoken of the emotional challenge of leading Scotland through the Covid-19 pandemic, which fuelled speculation that she may quit.
However, she emphatically dismissed any talk of a potential departure this week, telling the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that she had “no intention of going anywhere” but still wanted to be “relatively young” by the time she reached the stage of “contemplating other things”.
Sturgeon said: “It is almost as if my opponents have concluded they can't beat me or remove me from office themselves, so they're kind of crossing their fingers and hoping that I'll remove myself from office. But they are going to be really disappointed because I'm going to be around a lot longer.
“I was elected seven months ago, having asked people in Scotland to put their trust in me for a five-year term as first minister. They gave me that trust and they re-elected me. We face serious times as a country and I intend to fulfil that mandate.”
Sturgeon was speaking during the week of the SNP’s annual conference. After having shelved its plans for a second independence referendum during the health crisis, the SNP has said that steps will be taken to ensure that one can take place before the end of 2023 as per the party’s 2021 Scottish election manifesto.
Sturgeon has spoken against the idea of holding a referendum while Scotland was still feeling the effects of the pandemic, but with hope that the country will have largely emerged from the crisis by the early part of 2022, she stressed that attention needed to turn to how to make Scotland a “fairer, more equal, more prosperous country” in the post-Covid world.
“That means for Scotland getting to choose who's making these decisions, not having somebody like Boris Johnson imposed on us and deciding for ourselves,” she explained.
According to opinion polls, an almost 50 per cent split remains over whether Scotland should be independent, with support for the UK over the previous six months having been slightly ahead on average. Meanwhile, Sturgeon's approval ratings have been in decline since May.
Sturgeon has conceded that her party “still has a job to do” to convince more Scottish voters of the merits of independence, while Westminster maintains its position that Scotland will be more prosperous as part of the UK.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has regularly talked up how Scotland has benefited from the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme and the successful rollout of the Covid vaccine, warning that it would be “irresponsible and reckless” to consider an independence referendum while the country was still dealing with the consequences of coronavirus.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons