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Nicola’s Sturgeon’s push for Scottish independence has been left with an uncertain future after the First Minister’s resignation today, according to the man who held the job before her. Alex Salmond, whom Ms Sturgeon succeeded to the role in 2014, said there was now “no clear strategy” for achieving Scotland’s exit from the UK.
The former SNP leader, paying his respects to Ms Sturgeon, said: “Having been there I feel personally for her on the day of her resignation.”
But her decision to step down had left the party with “two questions for the future”, he added.
The first of these, he said, is that “the movement has been left with no clear strategy for independence.”
Mr Salmond, who now leads the Alba Party, explained that the “previously accepted referendum route has been closed” and the “defacto referendum/election proposal is now, at best, up in the air.”
This comment referred to Ms Sturgeon’s decision to approach the next UK general election as a “de facto” referendum on independence. This was a response to a ruling by the Supreme Court in November 2022 that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence.
Mr Salmond said that the second question was that there was “no obvious successor”, and that while the SNP may have a “range of able people”, anyone taking up the role “will now be tested in the fire of leadership inheriting a range of serious Government policy challenges.”
The former First Minister concluded that he hoped Ms Sturgeon’s replacement would be someone who wishes to “reunite the national movement”.
In her resignation speech, Ms Sturgeon said that part of her decision to resign came from deciding that carrying on was not right for her, and also not right for her country, her party and the cause of independence.
She said: “We are at a critical moment.The blocking of a referendum as the accepted, constitutional route to independence is a democratic outrage. But it puts the onus on us to decide how Scottish democracy will be protected and to ensure that the will of the Scottish people prevails.”
She called for support for independence to be “solidified” and to grow further, saying that for the nationalist cause to succeed, its campaigners needed to “reach across the divide in Scottish politics”.
Professor John Bryson, Chair in Enterprise and Economic Geography at the University of Birmingham said the SNP’s focus should now be on providing better public services to Scottish people to better prepare them for independence in the future.
He added: “This is also a time for a renaissance in the Scottish education system and for the next First Minister to address many of Scotland’s educational problems. The Scottish economy needs some attention. Nicola Sturgeon stood for Scottish Independence. The next First Minister should focus on developing a vibrant Scottish economy supported by the best possible public services and this includes health and educational provision.”
He said the best way forward would be to make Scotland’s economy “resilient” and able to support the country by itself before it could consider leaving the UK.
However, it’s not clear that independence is what the majority of Scots actually want.
A recent poll of more than 2,000 adults by Lord Ashcroft – published in Holyrood magazine on 13 February – found that Scotland would vote No to independence by a 12-point margin if a referendum was held now.
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Excluding those who said they didn’t know and those who would not vote, Scots said they would vote No to independence by 56 percent to 44 percent. Previous polls by Lord Ashcroft have found a four-point lead for Yes in August 2019 and a 51-49 lead for No in April 2021.
They similarly found that Ms Sturgeon’s plan to treat the next general election as a de-facto referendum was also unpopular, with those surveyed rejecting the idea.
A spokesperson for Independent Scotland – a non-profit initiative which aims to inform people about Scottish independence – told Channel 4 that Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation is “great news for Scotland and the independence movement”. They said it’s now time for the SNP to “listen to their voters” when it comes to electing a new First Minister, or “people will find another party seeking independence”.
Names suggested to replace Ms Sturgeon include John Swinney, Kate Forbes and Angus Robertson.
The SNP leader said she would continue to fight for Scottish independence, and was “not leaving politics.”
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