Nicola Sturgeon's resignation gives Scotland a chance to move away from her divisive politics – Ian Murray
It is right to recognise that Nicola Sturgeon has devoted her adult life to the Scottish public, during some of the toughest times. Her passion for Scotland has never been in doubt, even if we profoundly disagree on the direction of travel. In her resignation statement, the First Minister also rightly identified the toxicity in today’s politics.
But hasn’t she been at the forefront of causing most of it? There was no self-awareness that the polarisation of Scottish public life in recent years has been turbo-charged by her own party, which too often chooses division. And while Sturgeon enjoyed a dignified farewell, that’s something she hasn’t allowed others to receive – who can forget her celebrating on live TV like a football fan celebrates a last-minute winner in the cup final, when Jo Swinson lost her job?
The task for the next SNP leader is to try and bring people and communities together, and seek to remove the poison from our politics. There will certainly be no shortage of challenges facing them.
Speaking at my old school in Wester Hailes eight years ago, Sturgeon declared that closing the education attainment gap would be her “defining mission”. She has failed.
Her appalling record in government cannot be ignored as we reflect on her time in office. The attainment gap, which holds back the life chances of Scotland’s children, remains as wide as ever. The NHS is in crisis, with record waiting times and staff feeling undervalued. And in the coming days, councils are going to have to make impossible decisions following the Scottish Government decimating their funding again.
The litany of failures is endless and it was telling that the First Minister struggled to define her own legacy during the press conference. But I fear the coming SNP leadership contest will fail to focus on all these pressing issues.
Instead, we are set to endure weeks of debate about independence and the constitution – which couldn’t be further from people’s priorities – as a divided and feuding party picks their next leader. Each candidate for First Minister trying to outdo the other on who can be the most extreme on the only issue they really care about – separation. Right now, our politics needs to be about the future; not the arguments of the past.
There’s only one party leader in Scotland – Anas Sarwar – who is focused on the priorities of the Scottish people, including fixing our NHS, investing in social care, supporting businesses to grow and create jobs, and giving people the lifelong skills they need. And only one party leader in the UK – Keir Starmer – who is up to challenge of leading the country in the years ahead.
The UK and Scottish governments are out of ideas and out of time. The country needs new ideas and new passion.
Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation leaves a host of unanswered questions around “why now” and “what is the real reason” but what it does do is allow us to hit the reset button on Scottish politics away from constitutional division. I hope the opportunity to do that isn’t missed.
Ian Murray is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South