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Nicola Sturgeon’s most memorable moments as she resigns as Scotland’s first minister

Sturgeon, who has announced her plans to step down as SNP leader, had a number of memorable moments in her eight-year spell as Scottish leader

Nicola Sturgeon resigns

Nicola Sturgeon said she was resigning as Scotland's first minister because she could no longer give the job her total commitment. Image: Scottish Government

Nicola Sturgeon has resigned as Scottish first minister after eight years leading the country.

Sturgeon announced her intention to step down as SNP leader and first minister at an unscheduled press conference on Wednesday but will stay on in the role until a successor is found.

She denied that short-term pressures were to blame for her shock decision, instead citing the long-term strain of Scotland’s top job. 

Sturgeon said she no longer had the energy to continue, explaining: “Giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it.”

But she joked that while some people will be “upset” by her decision, others will “cope just fine”.

The outgoing first minister had plenty of memorable moments and big achievements during her time in charge. Here are some of them.

Introducing baby boxes

Sturgeon’s government looked to Finland for inspiration and innovation on a few issues, notably the focus on Housing First to tackle street homelessness.

One of the most successful imports was the introduction of the baby box – a welcome gift for every baby born in Scotland packed with essentials to help new mothers.

Sturgeon counted baby boxes as one of her big achievements in her resignation speech and said it was “enshrining our aspiration for every child to have the best start in life”.

It was one of the measures making for a “fairer Scotland”, Sturgeon added, alongside the Scottish child payment.

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Bringing in a rent freeze

Governments around the UK brought in eviction bans and other protections to prevent renters from being made homeless during the opening year of the pandemic in 2020.

But no such measures have been forthcoming from Westminster as rents hit record highs during the cost of living crisis.

Sturgeon, however, did act. She announced a rent freeze and an eviction ban would be put in place until next month with rent increases capped at 3 per cent after that. 

She told Holyrood in September: “Two of the most important and fundamental sources of security for any of us are a job and a home. In times of economic and financial crisis. These can be the foundations that help people through.”

Being a trans ally

Sturgeon denied short-term pressures led to her departure and the response to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill has certainly been among the issues she has faced in recent weeks.

The legislation, which makes it easier for people to change gender, has proven controversial and was blocked by the UK government.

Sturgeon has a record of standing up for trans rights. She accused some of the bill’s opponents of “deciding to use women’s rights as a sort of cloak of acceptability to cover up what is transphobia” and has promised to tackle transphobia in her own party.

Taking action to support care leavers

Sturgeon committed to two life-long causes she would continue to champion after stepping down as first minister. One was, obviously, Scottish independence.

The other was her support for care leavers.

She said improving the life chances for people leaving care was a “mission so close to my heart”.

Sturgeon has worked with care leaver charities throughout her spell as first minister and penned an open letter last year in which she said she was “personally committed to making sure each and every one of you grows up feeling loved, safe and protected”.

But it wasn’t just her policies that made for memorable moments…

Calling Britain First ‘fascists’ and ‘racists’ after being heckled in the street by Jayda Fransen

Sturgeon was celebrated for her take down of former Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen after being confronted outside a polling station in the 2021 Scottish elections.

Footage of Fransen, who has been criticised for years for her far-right views, confronting Sturgeon went viral on social media after the first minister got the better of her in a vocal confrontation.

Sturgeon called Fransen a “fascist” and said: “You are a racist and the southside of Glasgow will reject you. You will see the locals’ view later on.”

The locals view was quite clear later on: Fransen secured a paltry 46 votes as Sturgeon was re-elected to the Glasgow Southside seat.

Celebrating Jo Swinson losing her seat

Sturgeon said she was a “human being as well as a politician” in her resignation speech and she has been perhaps more willing to let that show than other politicians across the UK.

One of the most memorable examples was her reaction to then-Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson losing her East Dunbartonshire seat at the 2019 General Election.

Sturgeon was caught on camera with a double fist-pumping celebration that was more in-keeping with Hampden Park than Holyrood.

The SNP leader later apologised and said she got “overexcited”.

She said: “On a personal level, I really do feel for her, but of course I can’t help but be delighted by the performance of my party this evening.”

Bonding with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Irn Bru

Sturgeon’s spell at the top included presiding over the global climate summit COP26 which was held in Glasgow in 2021.

While there, US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez picked up a taste for the local soft drink  favourite Irn Bru.

And turning trade envoy, Sturgeon was only too happy to help AOC out.

Sturgeon shared a snap of her delivering a can to Ocasio-Cortez at the conference. She said: “Amidst all the serious business at #COP26 today, I’m pleased to also report that @AOC now has a supply of Irn Bru.”

The gesture was certainly appreciated. AOC replied: “Talk about Scottish hospitality.”

Betting £50 with Douglas Ross on whether she would make the next election

One of the first questions Sturgeon faced from journalists after resigning referenced an ongoing wager she has with opposition leader Douglas Ross.

The Scottish Conservatives leader bet Sturgeon £50 in 2021 that she would stand down before the next election.

The bet came to light after Ross told the Telegraph she “just looks a bit fed up at times”.

Quizzed on whether she would pay Ross £100 to settle the bet after her resignation press conference, Sturgeon joked she remembers the terms being £50. She quipped: “If he’s already inflated it to £100 then we may have words there.”

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Being hit in the head with a swingball 

Unlike some image-conscious politicians, Sturgeon has not been afraid to poke fun at herself on social media.

In 2019 she shared a video of a visit to Dennistoun that did not go as planned thanks to an ill-fated game of swingball with Glasgow North East MSP Anne McLaughlin.

Sharing the clip of being smacked in the head by the ball, Sturgeon tweeted: “Great time in Dennistoun today – until the moment @AnneMcLaughlin whacked me on the head with a tennis ball!”

Losing her shoes to a toddler 

Swingball struggles have not been the only time Sturgeon’s visits around Scotland have gone south.

As Covid restrictions eased in summer 2021, Sturgeon’s trip to Fallin Nursery near Stirling saw her lose her shoes to an opportunistic toddler.

Sturgeon later joked: “I can report that the shoes were safely recovered.”

Now her resignation means someone else can try walking in the first minister’s shoes.

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Trolling Liz Truss on Twitter over being an attention seeker 

Liz Truss famously didn’t call Sturgeon during her short spell as prime minister and even called the Scottish first minister an “attention seeker” at a hustings event in London.

The Scottish leader had the last laugh and not only because she comfortably outlasted Truss’s tenure in Westminster.

Sturgeon shared a photo of a seal on social media with a not-too-subtle dig at Truss. She tweeted: “Spotted this cute seal in beautiful Argyll. I think s/he might be a bit of an attention seeker.”

Being interviewed by Alan Cumming for The Big Issue

Back in the early days as first minister, The Big Issue sent actor and proud Scot Alan Cumming along to meet Sturgeon.

The pair discussed the big issues of the day: Trump, Brexit and whether she would rather shove then-prime minister Theresa May or German chancellor Angela Merkel into a tank of goo.
Read the full interview here.

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