Nicola Sturgeon resigns: The triumphs and controversies of Sturgeon's eight years in power

By Multimedia Producer Rachel Dixon

After a record breaking eight-year tenure - which saw five UK prime ministers - Nicola Sturgeon is to step down as Scotland's First Minister.

As the first woman to lead the country, Ms Sturgeon steered Scotland through the pandemic and pushed for a second independence referendum as the nation's longest reigning first minister.

In response to the news, some paid tribute to the First Minister, with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack calling her a "formidable politician" and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recognising her "long-standing service”.

However, as she herself recognised in her resigination speech, Ms Sturgeon has numerous critics and has often been a polarising figure.

Sturgeon's legacy

As the only candidate to stand for SNP leader, she was sworn in after predecessor Alex Salmond resigned in 2014 but her political career starts decades before that.

In her early teens, Sturgeon joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and in 1986, at the age of 16, she became a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Young Nicola Sturgeon as a Scottish National Party candidate in Glasgow in 1999. Credit: PA Images

She was first became a Member of Scottish Parliament in 1999.

After taking over the premiership, she's seen the party gain victories in the past three general and Scottish elections.

She'll aso be remembered for her straight-talking response to the pandemic.

As the UK was plunged into confusion and coronavirus restrictions, the Scottish leader's concise speeches and cautious policies often contrasted Boris Johnson's approach to the virus.

Another key factor of her leadership was the drive for Scottish independence and a second referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon officially sworn in as First Minister at the Court of Session in Edinburgh Credit: Ciaran Donnelly/PA

Indyref2 was regularly at top of the agenda for Sturgeon, but she didn't manage to deliver.

In October 2022, the UK's Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Parliament cannot hold a second independence referendum without Westminster's consent.

In her resignation speech, Ms Sturgeon says she “frees the SNP” on the issue of Scottish independence “to choose the path it believes to be the right one without worrying about the perceived implications for my leadership”.

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Why did Nicola Sturgeon resign?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was praised for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

“In my head and in my heart I know that time is now. That it is right for me, for my party and for the country," Sturgeon said as she announced she was stepping aside.

Setting out “as best as I can my reasons”, Ms Sturgeon said: “When it comes to navigating choppy waters, resolving seemingly intractable issues, or soldiering on when walking away would be the simpler option, I have plenty of experience to draw on.

“So if this was just a question of my ability or my resilience to get through the latest period of pressure I wouldn’t be standing here today, but it’s not.

“This decision comes from a deeper and longer-term assessment. I know it may seem sudden, but I have been wrestling with it, albeit with oscillating levels of intensity for some weeks."

Sturgeon says she is looking forward to “a new way of living life” adding she "wants to spend a bit of time on Nicola Sturgeon the person, the human being".

She is perhaps hinting at wanting to spend more time with her family, despite her husband Peter Murrell, 56, being the current chief executive officer of the SNP.The pair met when Sturgeon was just 18 at a young SNP members gathering in Aberdeenshire. They began a relationship in 2003 and married in 2010.

Nicola Sturgeon pictured with her husband Peter Murrell. Credit: PA

As she answered questions from reporters during her resignation, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m looking forward to new opportunities, new challenges, and just a new way of living life.

“And perhaps and above all else, that’s what I’m most looking forward to, just a different way of living life, catching up with the people, the friends that I’ve not had much opportunity to spend time with. But watch this space, there is plenty more to come.”

SNP scandal and her feud with Alex Salmond

Nicola Sturgeon and top party members John Swinney, Alex Salmond andMike Russell after the Scottish parliamentary elections in 1999 Credit: PA

After Nicola Sturgeon scooped the top job from predecessor Alex Salmond, the pair were involved in a fall-out which shook the Scottish National Party.

In 2017 claims of sexual harrasment and inappropriate behaviour were alleged against Alex Salmond leading to him resigning from the party in 2018 following a botched investigation into the claims by the Scottish Government.

Mr Salmond said Ms Sturgeon made “false and manifestly untrue” statements to MSPs several times leading to her making an appearance before Holyrood for allegedly breaching the ministerial code.

She faced calls to resign from the Scottish Conservatives following these events.

It was concluded Ms Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code in relation to the four allegations investigated.

Did Ms Sturgeon's gender recognition reform lead to her resignation?In recent weeks more than four in 10 voters in Scotland said they thought First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should resign immediately, according to a new poll carried out over Scotland's plan for controversial gender recognition reforms.

The gender recognition reforms would allow trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) without the need for a medical diagnosis.

The Bill would also allow 16 and 17 year olds to apply for a GRC for the first time, and reduce the amount of time a person has to live in their acquired gender before they can be granted the document.

ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith asks Nicola Sturgeon, does she believe all trans women are women?

Ms Sturgeon also received heavy criticism from some quarters for the Isla Bryson case.

Transgender prisoner Bryson, who was convicted of raping two women before she transitioned, was initially housed in an all-female prison before being moved to the male estate.

In her resignation speech, Sturgeon seemed to deny that these issues were a factor in her resignation, saying her decision was not a “reaction to short-term pressures”.