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Nicky Marr - Nicola Sturgeon: Run out of fuel or running away?

By Nicky Marr

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Nicky Marr and Nicola Sturgeon
Nicky Marr and Nicola Sturgeon

My first thought when Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation as New Zealand’s PM was to admire her courage. Knowing when to quit, then carrying that decision through, is an admirable quality in any walk of life. And it’s especially rare in the power-hungry world of politics.

My second thought after Ardern’s resignation was this; I bet Nicola Sturgeon wished she had got her resignation announcement out first. I guessed she’d have to wait a few weeks to allow the Down Under dust to settle and would then follow suit.

It’s easy for me to say that I thought the writing was on the cards a month ago, especially now that we know the First Minister had been wrestling with her decision to resign “for some weeks”. But Sturgeon’s decision was there to see, if you looked for it. Her drive, her passion, her determination had all deserted her.

It was obvious from her increasingly inarticulate encounters with the press over the gender recognition debate, and from her attempted use of this delicate issue as a political point-scoring exercise against Westminster. Goodness, how that backfired.

It was clear, too, in her inability to hold back Lorna Slater’s well-intentioned but recklessly ill-thought-through Deposit Return Scheme.

And it has been obvious from the simply ludicrous suggestion that all alcohol advertising be banned. Trying to dress that up as a solution to Scotland’s deep-rooted poor relationship with drink and drugs was the measure of a desperate woman.

And it was obvious from her party’s increasing lack of a proper grip on the issues that matter to ordinary Scottish people.

We care about our children’s education. We care that we and our loved ones will get the healthcare we need, should we fall ill. We care that our elderly and most vulnerable will be well looked after. And we care that the staff who look after all of those we love; teachers, healthcare workers, and care home workers, are well paid and properly resourced and supported. And that there are enough of them to do the jobs well.

We care that our roads are fit for purpose, and our public transport systems are reliable and affordable. And we care that there will be a skilled workforce to help build and grow the economy of our wonderful, beautiful, resourceful country, so that it thrives in the future.

We care about all of these things, whether we would prefer to see Scotland independent or not. And that’s the issue. Sturgeon and the SNP were too focused on their goal of independence to remember the responsibility they had while in government, which was to run the country to the best of their abilities, with all of the resources, powers and energy that they had. I say this as someone who voted ‘Yes’.

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Nicola Sturgeon on visit to Inverness.
Nicola Sturgeon on visit to Inverness.

It was during the funeral this week of a good friend and fellow independence activist that Sturgeon’s resolve to stand down shifted “from 99 per cent to 100”, she told us. Funerals have a habit of giving us perspective.

But whether Sturgeon is running away too, remains to be seen. The party’s finances seem to be in serious trouble, and with a police investigation under way, and Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell at the centre of that investigation, there may be more to come out. Did she resign now to save later political uproar? Only time will tell.

Undeniably, Sturgeon’s tank, like Ardern’s, had run dry. That happens to us all from time to time. And given the dedication both women showed to their countries during the Covid pandemic, I am not surprised. I was exhausted just watching them both, and all I was doing at the time was staying at home, weeding my garden, and baking scones.

With the tank at zero, and in the polarised political environment that Sturgeon and her party are partly responsible for having created, there was no space, no time and – I believe – suddenly no appetite for her to refuel.

Sturgeon, in her resignation speech, admitted her own part in that polarisation, and hopes her resignation will help all parties to “focus more on issues than on personalities”.

I fervently hope so too. Scotland needs more focus on issues just now. Let’s turn the page and find a more positive chapter for all of Scotland’s people, please.

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