Lib Dems react to Sturgeon resignation

I might disagree with Nicola Sturgeon on many things, but I have long liked her personally.  She is one of the best political communicators we have had, someone who is very good at empathy and emotional connection. Her resignation speech today was dignified, sincere and candid about the pressures she has faced after eight years in the role.

Sturgeon is standing down on her own terms at a time of her choosing. Her work ethic is pretty legendary and she feels that she doesn’t have within her the capacity to continue working at this pace after 8 years in the top job.

Her leadership during the pandemic, described today by Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton as “a hell of a shift,” was not perfect but had a clarity and compassion that others lacked. Alex said in a BBC interview that today was not a day for throwing political brick bats and paid tribute to the First Minister personally:

The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats says Scotland faces “many challenges” and he calls on the SNP to “get stability restored” after the first minister steps down.

But today is “not a day for political attacks”, Alex Cole-Hamilton tells BBC News.

Despite having a “combative” relationship with the outgoing first minister, Cole-Hamilton recalls a warm moment between the two when the FM offered him “words of comfort” after his young daughter choked on a coin and had to be resuscitated around five years ago.

Watch here:

Later he added:

Nicola Sturgeon’s talent has undoubtedly shaped Scottish political life and she deserves to be thanked for her public service. Today is not a day for political attacks.  I wish her well for everything that comes next.

It is to Nicola Sturgeon’s credit that she has been open about the pressures and stresses that leadership has involved.  Everyone will recognise how hard it will have been particularly to steer the country during the pandemic and the weight of those decisions.

Scotland needs leadership that will focus on what really matters because every corner of our NHS is in crisis, the cost of living is punishing, islanders still need new ferries and education deserves to be a top priority.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will work hard to move the debate on from the divisions of the past because people can’t wait for years behind yet more arguments about independence. Scotland needs new hope, right now.

Alex is not the only person to have been impressed by her kindness. Back in 2011, she took time out of her day to send me, a random nobody activist in an opposition party, a lovely message of sympathy when our much loved campaigns director Andrew Reeves died.

It is also worth saying while she has recently been attacked on women’s rights, mainly by people who have never done anything for women in their lives, she is a committed feminist who has done a great deal to improve all diversity strands in her own party.  She also – eventually – delivered 30 hours of term-time childcare for 3 and 4 year olds and introduced the Scottish Child Payment which gives £25 per week to families on the lowest incomes.

Here’s what other Lib Dems have been saying about her resignation and we’ll update as more comments come in:

Christine later wrote a very generous column in the Express.

Nicola Sturgeon is an individual of enormous talent who has been the most constant and capable leader in the United Kingdom for the best part of a decade. Some will claim she has been the politician of her generation in Scotland.

I might not go quite that far but certainly her approach, manner and the respect in which she is held by opponents is a world away from her immediate predecessor in Bute House….

…There is a woman of immense talent, political savvy and commitment. I wish her well.

If only she hadn’t been a nationalist.

Many Lib Dems, including me, were livid when Nicola Sturgeon celebrated Jo Swinson’s defeat in 2019.  Jo, herself, however, paid a generous tribute to her today:

So what happens now?

Sturgeon and a relatively small number of key allies, including her husband as Chief Executive, have controlled the SNP pretty tightly during her leadership but tensions over independence and other issues have been coming to the surface. Now that she is going, it remains to be seen whether the party will implode into the sort of infighting we saw before Alex Salmond’s second stint as leader in 2004. The party is a very broad coalition of social conservatives and progressives who have independence as the one thing that holds them together and if they can’t agree on that then it all gets messy.

Whoever they choose now has a tough job ahead of them.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Helpful leadership from Scottish colleagues on this one. Caron as “random nobody activist” does sound like an oxymoron (look it up if necessary!) albeit a neat turn of phrase to support the point she is making. Meanwhile anyone in politics who makes a decent fist of stepping down gracefully is to be applauded, given what we have seen in 2022.

  • Mel Borthwaite 15th Feb '23 - 5:47pm

    Excellent article that sets the appropriate tone. She has been head and shoulders above most other politicians in the UK for several years and it is a matter of significance that she has chosen to step down. Being just 52, I am sure other opportunities will be open to her, possibly related to the EU. We will see.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Feb '23 - 7:36am

    “anyone in politics who makes a decent fist of stepping down gracefully is to be applauded, given what we have seen in 2022.”

  • Suzanne Fletcher 16th Feb '23 - 5:44pm

    Good to see us not resorting to tribalism, and giving praise where due

  • There’s no doubt Nicola Sturgeon was an impressive performer, and head and shoulders above many political leaders in her era, but I’m not sure she saw Scottish independence as clearly as she should have. Like Brexit, it may have appealed to the emotions of some, but not been in their long term interest. Nationalism is not something we need more of in the face of today’s problems. Independence from the English was a dream she’d first had as a teenager, and some might praise her tenacity pursuing it, but in the end it looked to me more like a vanity project.

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