Nicola Sturgeon visits the University of Glasgow in 2015. Credit: Alistair Thomas

UofG students react to First Minister’s resignation

By Athina Bohner

The Glasgow Guardian has spoken to dozens of students regarding their views on Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation, following the First Minister’s shock announcement.

On Wednesday, 15 February 2023, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon resigned in a surprise press conference. The UofG law graduate served as the country’s First Minister for eight years and as a Member of Scottish Parliament since 1999.

The Glasgow University students interviewed on the day of her resignation expressed a variety of emotions, ranging from shock and sympathy to frustration and disappointment. A student from Wales remarked: “It’s quite sad to see her go, but I also kind of understand it. She has been doing it for a really long time and there is a lot of pressure. You are in the public eye constantly, so whatever you do, you’re going to be judged by an entire country.” Similarly, a Scottish student felt that Nicola Sturgeon “is definitely leaving Scotland in a better situation than it was when she came into power”, while another conveyed that “what she’s done with the devolved powers that she’s had, have been a positive influence on the country.”

However, while acknowledging Sturgeon’s legacy, multiple students voiced their dissatisfaction at the Scotland she leaves behind. Lily asserted that Nicola Sturgeon “created an agenda for Scotland being forward-thinking and leading in human rights, but I think that was largely on paper more than it actually was in policy.” In particular, she criticised the delays in implementing buffer zones around abortion clinics, which would improve access to reproductive healthcare. Referring to the blocked gender recognition bill and the recent Supreme Court ruling against Indyref2, Archie commented: “I didn’t think that she’d be resigning at this point, but there has obviously been quite a lot of doubt about her policies recently. I feel like she was at a bit of a loose end as to where she was going to go next, because I feel nothing was really happening for the SNP recently.”

In her speech, the outgoing First Minister declared “politics is brutal” – a sentiment which resonated with multiple students. A law student believes that as a woman in politics, Nicola Sturgeon “faced a lot of criticism that she wouldn’t have faced if she was a man in her position.” She added that she believes “a lot of it is deeply misogynistic”, raising questions about the nature of today’s male-dominated political environment. In fact, numerous students compared the First Minister’s resignation to that of Jacinda Ardern, who stepped down as Prime Minister of New Zealand in January 2023.

When asked about the impact of Sturgeon’s resignation on a second Scottish independence referendum, the majority of students felt that it “might have quite a dampening effect” on the independence cause. A law student thinks that “it is less likely now that the independence referendum will gain any movement, because I think a lot of people will see [the resignation] as a sign of failure and that’s it finished now.” Another law student suggested that SNP supporters may view this as “a slap in the face”, while Archie felt frustrated that there is “no effective opposition to hold [the SNP] accountable.”

In addition to prompting an outpouring of farewell messages, Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation has sparked renewed criticism regarding the state of the NHS and the drug death crisis in Scotland. However, Scottish student Grace – who identified as an SNP supporter until recently – countered that “in terms of the NHS, no matter who’s in power, that’s a point that people will attack. I don’t think she can be blamed at all for the state of the NHS.” English student Matilda agreed: “There’s a lot of talk around the NHS crisis, but that’s also in England. The whole thing is chronically underfunded and that’s a Westminster issue, as well as a Scottish issue. She hasn’t let anyone down personally. I like her a lot.”

Following Sturgeon’s resignation, Scotland’s political situation seems to be engrossed with uncertainty, with a student commenting that “it is hard to see who is going to take over the party and follow up her leadership”. None of the students interviewed were able to name any potential successors, which may shed light on Nicola Sturgeon’s role as the dominant face of the SNP. When asked about her thoughts on the future of Scottish politics, Lily regarded this moment as “an opportunity for change. I’m not sure whether it will be a good or a bad change, but it will be an exciting one, in quite a scary way.”


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