Nicola Sturgeon to make history as First Minister

Nicola Sturgeon takes over today.  Picture: Greg MacveanNicola Sturgeon takes over today.  Picture: Greg Macvean
Nicola Sturgeon takes over today. Picture: Greg Macvean
NICOLA Sturgeon was today set to make history at Holyrood as she takes over as Scotland’s first woman First Minister.

MSPs were due to vote formally to appoint her as Alex Salmond’s replacement following his official resignation yesterday.

In a final statement in the parliament chamber, Mr Salmond said Ms Sturgeon, who has served as his deputy for seven years, would make an “outstanding” First Minister.

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Ms Sturgeon, 44, took over as leader of the Scottish National Party at its conference in Perth at the weekend and will be officially sworn in as head of government at the Court of Session in Edinburgh tomorrow.

Mr Salmond announced his intention to quit as SNP leader and First Minister within hours of defeat in the independence referendum in September. Ms Sturgeon was elected unopposed as his replacement.

Yesterday, Mr Salmond was at Heriot-Watt University on his last day as First Minister to see one of his most famous pledges literally set in stone.

He unveiled a monument to what he has said he considers his government’s “biggest achievement” – the abolition of student tuition fees.

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And his commitment to free university education was engraved into a commemorative stone with the word: “The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scottish students”.

Apprentice stonemasons Gregor Alcorn, 26, and Ross Kennedy, 22, created the monument, which weighs 0.97 tonnes, from Clashach sandstone, the same stone used in the building of the National Museum of Scotland.

Professor Steve Chapman, principal of Heriot-Watt University, said: “We are delighted to host this stone, a beautifully crafted piece and a monument to Alex Salmond’s tenure.”

In his farewell speech in the parliament, Mr Salmond said his tenure as First Minister had been “the privilege of his life”. Mr Salmond told MSPs he left office with “a sense of optimism and confidence”.

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“Scotland has a new sense of political confidence and a new sense of economic confidence,” he said.

Labour’s Jackie Baillie said she had “sparred, disagreed and fallen out” with him, but she recognised him as “a towering figure in Scottish politics”.

Labour saving policy switch

Labour could win support from SNP voters if it promised not to re-introduce university tuition fees in Scotland and pledged to make the Living Wage mandatory, a poll has suggested.

The research, carried out by Survation, also suggested a commitment to decommission the Trident nuclear weapons on the Clyde and provide free nursery places for children from the age of 12 months could boost Labour’s support.

Survation’s Patrick ­Brione said by changing policy, Labour could restore the party “to first place in Scotland”.