ARTICLE: Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon shared some of her favourite images from her time as First Minister on social media. At the top of her list was a picture of herself in the centre of a large crowd on Inverness High Street during her 2015 election campaign. On that day, she spent her time speaking to locals, young and old. Despite the demands on her time, I recall that no one who wanted a photo, handshake, or just a chat left disappointed. It was a testament to her character that she went out of her way to reach out to those in wheelchairs or those who found themselves on the sidelines to say hello and inquire about them. I remember thinking that she was a tough act to follow in daily life, let alone as a leader.

When I was the Council leader, I worked closely with her on the Inverness City Region deal. Our Highland deal was the first after the 2015 election, and her government’s funding of £135 million was in stark contrast to the £53 million from the UK government. Many people have benefited from her decision to prioritise funding to ensure that nobody pays the awful Bedroom Tax and the introduction of Social Security Scotland. Then there is the Baby Box, the £25 per child per week Scottish child payment, a variety of support for carers. Our young people have access to free bus travel when needed as they embark on their journey, and they do not have to pay tuition fees to access further education. And that’s just scratching the surface.

When I heard the news of her resignation, I was as shocked as anyone, but I understood her decision. Politics can be a harsh environment. People are always looking for an opportunity to attack, which can be tough on politicians, who are human beings with families and emotions. The relentless pressure on Nicola must have been overwhelming. She has remained resilient and always maintained a good sense of humour and grace. We must now move forward, thanking her for her leadership these past eight years, not least during the dark days of the pandemic. We will have new political leadership and a new voice to build on her legacy.

There is so much talent to choose from in the SNP, and I look forward to the leadership debate and continuing to seek to expand opportunities for the Highlands and Scotland.