Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon resigns, throwing a wrench into country's independence movement

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
(Image credit: Jane Barlow - Pool/Getty Images)

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Wednesday that she was resigning as the country's leader after more than eight years in power.

The head of the Scottish National Party, Sturgeon said she knew "in my head and in my heart" that it was the right time to step down, per BBC News, adding that the SNP would "begin the process of electing a new party leader."

"I am proud to stand here as the first female and longest-serving incumbent of this office, and I'm very proud of what has been achieved," Sturgeon said.

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In office since 2014, Sturgeon has become one of the strongest proponents of independence for Scotland, and has consistently touted efforts to have the country break free from the United Kingdom. That year, Scottish voters held a referendum and narrowly decided to remain a part of the U.K.

Following the U.K.'s Brexit withdrawal from the European Union in 2020, however, Politico noted Sturgeon "argued that Britain's departure from the bloc warrants another Scottish independence referendum."

Politico added that Sturgeon "remains one of the most popular figures in the drive to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom through a fresh referendum," something that the U.K. has refused to allow.

Sturgeon's decision to step down seemingly caught Scottish lawmakers off guard, but it comes following a series of controversies over the past few weeks. The Washington Post noted that "Sturgeon's party has been in turmoil over Scotland's Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which would have made it easier for transgender people, as young as 16, to change their legal gender," a law that was struck down by the British government.

Sturgeon's exit will likely stall Scotland's independence efforts, even as the SNP continues to push for a new referendum.

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