LONDON--Nicola Sturgeon resigned as Scottish first minister on Wednesday, saying her dominance over her party and the country was no longer the asset it once was in the fight for an independent Scotland.
In power since 2014, she said she had become too divisive - and too tired - to reach across the political divide, and she wanted to step away from the "brutality" of modern politics to focus on "Nicola Sturgeon the person".
Her unexpected departure will have implications for her Scottish National Party (SNP), for the fight for independence and potentially the outcome of the next national election if it helps the opposition Labour Party to regain some of the seats it once held in Scotland.
"This is really hard for me," Sturgeon, 52, said. "My decision comes from a place of duty and of love, tough love perhaps, but love nevertheless, for my party, and above all for the country."
She became leader of the SNP in the wake of a 2014 independence referendum when Scotland voted 55% to 45% to remain part of the United Kingdom. She steered her party through a series of resounding electoral victories and earned a reputation as the best political communicator in Britain. Those skills were evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when she avoided many of the mistakes made by politicians in Westminster.
But in recent months the path she was seeking for a new independence referendum was blocked by Britain's Supreme Court, and she became embroiled in a row over transgender rights that angered some of her own supporters. She said on Wednesday she would stand down as first minister and leader of the SNP once a successor was found.
Sturgeon told a news conference in Edinburgh that while she believed there was majority backing for independence in Scotland, the SNP needed to solidify and grow that support. "To achieve that, we must reach across the divide in Scottish politics," she said. "And my judgement now is that a new leader will be better able to do this. Someone about whom the mind of almost everyone in the country is not already made up for better or worse."
Echoing Jacinda Ardern's comment that she had "no more in the tank" when she quit as New Zealand's leader in January, Sturgeon said the brutality of modern politics had taken a toll and she could no longer commit to give "every ounce of energy" that the job entailed.