It wasn’t the going but the speed which was the surprise. There was no way that Nicola Sturgeon was going to lead the SNP into the next election as the Gender Recognition issue was the least of her worries.
“Judge me on education” she said, and that would be the first and by no means the hardest of questions she’d have to answer. A Westminster election it maybe, but the focus on the domestic Scottish agenda would be relentless. She was always going to bail before then.
Similarly, the “de facto referendum” conjured up as a fall back for the cardinal folly of a self-inflicted defeat in the Supreme Court’s unravelling by the day. Whether binned entirely or just refined to avoid an outright repudiation, the coming SNP conference will decide. But it again exposed a lack of strategy and the running out of road for the cans she’d been kicking relentlessly on.
Of course, she’s a political debater and government communicator par excellence. You can’t win that many elections or survive in office without being fleet of foot and highly capable. Of that there’s no doubt. Her briefings during Covid were clear and reassuring for many, even if there’s legitimate questions as to why she had to do all of them. Her presence was dignified and calm in comparison to the fraudulence and buffoonery of the then Prime Minister.
What future inquiries though will make on care homes and other aspects time will tell. That said some perceptions will remain, and she’s earned them. That might well be a microcosm of a wider analysis of her tenure. Baby boxes and other welcome but limited announcements will be superseded by a deeper analysis on both the big ticket items in government on health, the economy and education along with her strategy for independence. A great short-term tactician but a very poor long-term strategist.
History though will not be kind to Nicola Sturgeon. As a reflection and assessment begins a deeper analysis will replace the photo shot or sound bite. That’ll change the narrative, and much will be harsh.
She may claim that it’s because it’s history not herstory. But it’ll be nothing to do with misogyny but because too often it was just Her Story. From the rock star meetings at the beginning where her husband and Party Chief Executive acted as promoter, through the ever-increasing tightening of control, to the situation she’s bequeathed of a centralized party and a government of yes people, if not sycophants.
That there’s no agreed successor’s also a sign of failure. Part of leadership’s to have a plan for if you go under a bus, not just when you step down. But it was all about her and nothing else could be countenanced. Ironically, that may now be an opportunity. As her inner circle scramble to rally round Humza Yousaf, others from outwith the magic circle can speak to the wider party.
That her husband still remains in senior party office is incredulous, but he’ll be gone soon and what might be exposed will further tarnish. Talented and hugely able but devoid of vision and fearful of opposition, she could and should have achieved so much more.