The political vultures have been circling Nicola Sturgeon for several weeks now. But her resignation as first minister and leader of the SNP still comes as a lightning bolt from a not especially threatening Scottish political sky. It is certain to trigger the biggest convulsion in Scottish politics since the independence referendum of 2014, and its implications will be felt across the electoral and constitutional politics of the whole UK too.
Sturgeon’s resignation statement at Bute House today showed why she will be such a formidable act to follow, and also why it is time for her to go. She had much to say, about Scotland, independence, Covid and political life, which was as eloquently done as ever. But her speech, perhaps like her leadership, went on too long. Even as she spoke, you could sense that the political world was cruelly turning to consider the post-Sturgeon era.
It has been a commonplace among those who track Scottish politics that Sturgeon has been in what one columnist called her late imperial phase for many months. She had begun to lose her touch – and hence her hold – especially when compared with her mother-of-the-nation mastery during Covid. Even within the ranks of her Scottish National party, the most self-disciplined and tongue-holding political force in these islands outside Sinn Féin, criticisms and disagreements were being voiced….