Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to Step Down

The leader of Scotland's devolved government in Edinburgh announced her resignation on Wednesday after eight years as first minister.

Nicola Sturgeon has recently come under pressure over a stalled independence referendum push and after becoming embroiled in a row over transgender rights.

What Sturgeon said in her speech

The first minister told a news conference she was not resigning because of short-term political pressures.

"Of course, there are difficult issues confronting the government now, but when is that ever not the case?" she said, pointing to her almost three decades in front-line politics.

"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."

"This decision comes from a deeper and long-term assessment," she said, adding she had been wrestling with it for some weeks.

Sturgeon said she would remain as leader of the Scottish government until a successor was found. The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader attributed the decision partly to the personal toll that the relentless nature of the role was having upon her. She also said that, from a political point of view, the timing was right and that her tenure was "now in danger of becoming too long."

"The longer any leader is in office, the more opinions about them became fixed and very hard to change," she said, adding that there was a need to solidify support for Scottish independence.

"To achieve that, we must reach across the divide in Scottish politics, and my judgment is that a new leader would be better able to do that."

Sturgeon gave the resignation speech from her official residence at Bute House in Edinburgh.

Frustrated referendum attempt

Sturgeon became the leader of the ruling SNP in the wake of a 2014 independence referendum, in which the country voted 55% to 45% to remain as part of the United Kingdom. She has spent much of that time in between pushing for Scottish independence and opposing Brexit.

She suffered a major setback in November when the UK's Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish government needed approval from the British parliament to hold a second referendum on independence.

The Scottish leader had also recently become embroiled in a dispute over transgender policies, with the legislature in Edinburgh passing a bill to make it easier for people to change their legal gender.

The UK government used a rarely invoked power to block the law, arguing that it could undermine UK-wide equality legislation guaranteeing access to single-sex spaces for women and girls.

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