Why is Nicola Sturgeon resigning as first minister?
Sturgeon's rocky start to 2023 prompted open discussion about her future, with several recent controversies piling pressure on the embattled SNP leader.
Nicola Sturgeon has announced her resignation as Scotland's first minister, amid a drop in popularity.
Sturgeon, 52, is Scotland's longest-serving first minister, having held the position since 2014, and announced her departure at a press conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday.
Describing her time in office as a "privilege beyond measure", Sturgeon acknowledged the job was also "rightly, hard".
"Giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it - the country deserves nothing less," she said, adding that she could have continued for a few more months but "would have less and less energy to give to the job".
The minister's rocky start to the year had prompted open discussion about her future in the role; with debates on gender, and failing initiatives on healthcare and recycling among the pressures on the embattled Scottish National Party leader.
However, she insisted her decision was not "a reaction to short-term pressures" and that it came from a "deeper and longer-term assessment".
Nicola Sturgeon resignation - key updates
Who will be Scotland's next leader? (The Independent)
Nicola Sturgeon's resignation: Timescale of departure and what comes next (Herald Scotland)
By quitting, Nicola Sturgeon is leaving her trans mess for someone else to clear up (Telegraph)
Just two weeks ago Sturgeon said there was still 'plenty in the tank' (Herald Scotland)
What does Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation mean for Scottish independence? (The Independent)
Sturgeon's popularity has seen a steady decline of late, most notably over the upcoming 2024 election, which the SNP leader pledged to turn into a 'de facto' referendum on Scottish independence.
Sturgeon had initially intended to hold a second referendum this year, however, her bid for another vote was blocked by the UK Supreme Court, which ruled Holyrood could not proceed with the poll without the backing of Westminster.
And while the issue previously played well for Sturgeon, the tide has turned in Scotland, with fewer residents supporting a second referendum following the first failed attempt in 2014.
Indeed, a poll by Lord Ashcroft for Holyrood magazine earlier this week showed the majority of Scottish voters do not back Sturgeon's plan for a de facto referendum, with just 21% supporting the move.
Another survey no doubt weighing on Sturgeon is the recent Panelbase poll, which showed 42% of Scottish voters believe she should resign from her role immediately.
And while the SNP continues to enjoy widespread support north of the border, the leader herself has found it far more challenging to find favour with voters of late.
However, at Wednesday's press conference, Sturgeon said she still believed Scotland was striving towards independence. "Individual polls come and go," she said, referencing the recent surveys that have showed dwindling support for a second referendum.
The dip in popularity comes alongside a series of controversies that have marred Sturgeon in recent months.
The debate over the SNP's Gender Recognition Bill has been further ignited by the incarceration of double rapist Isla Bryson (whose transgender status sparked widespread discussion over where she should be held) and discussion over the affirmative practices of the gender service at Scotland's Sandyford clinic.
Sturgeon acknowledged in January that the bill, passed in Scotland and blocked by the UK government, would "inevitably" end up in court, teeing up another battle between Holyrood and Westminster.
At the press conference, Sturgeon referred to the discussion about trans rights, saying that while the backlash over the issue was not the straw that broke the camel's back, "one of the things I do regret is not being able to bring more of a rational approach to these debates".
She also reiterated her commitment to fighting for equality for women and trans people, stating: "I will always be a voice for inclusion, for equality, for human rights and dignity. I will always be a feminist and will stand up for women's rights every day I have breath in my body."
"I believe these things must in any progressive, liberal society find ways of coexisting," she added.
The first minister was also facing pressure over the country's Social Care Service, with waiting lists for healthcare stretching into years rather than months, and prompting an uptick in private health treatment; as well as a backlash over shakily executed environment schemes such as the single-use container returns plan.
Outside of government policy, Sturgeon is most notably facing the fallout from a police investigation into her husband, SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell.
Murrell is the subject of a fraud probe that began around 18 months ago, with authorities investigating whether he misused party funds.
Among the police's lines of enquiry are a missing £600,000 that was intended to be ringfenced by the party for its independence campaign as well as a six-figure loan from Murrell to the SNP.
Asked about the probe during her press conference, Sturgeon said she would not comment on any ongoing police investigation.