Nicola Sturgeon has urged the SNP candidates vying to succeed her as first minister to “protect the ingredients of success” – telling Sky News the leadership contest so far has been “a less than edifying process”.
In a Beth Rigby interview due to air at 9pm on Sky News, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the turmoil in her party following a dramatic weekend which saw her husband quit as chief executive amid a row about transparency.
But she said she did not regret her decision to stand down, saying after eight years as leader she had become so dominant in Scottish politics she was becoming a “barrier to succession”.
“I wouldn’t be standing down if I didn’t think that was necessary after 16 years in government, but also protecting the ingredients of our phenomenal electoral success,” Ms Sturgeon said.
Ms Sturgeon urged those vying to replace her “not to throw the baby out with the bathwater”, amid criticism of the candidates and a significant fall in paid-up support, with the loss of about 30,000 members since 2021.
“I’m not suggesting that this is not a difficult process and at times, it has been a less than edifying process,” she said.
“And what I’d say to all of those standing to succeed me as leader… is remember that I am standing down from a party that hasn’t lost an election in Scotland since 2010.
“This is a moment for refresh, renewal, change, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have the trust of the people of Scotland and we’ve got to make sure we retain that trust.”
Sturgeon ‘has not been contacted by police over SNP probe’
In one of her last interviews as the country’s leader, Ms Sturgeon also told Sky News she has not heard whether police want to interview her or her husband as part of a long-running probe into SNP finances.
Peter Murrell, who had been the party’s chief executive since 1999, quit on Saturday after claims he misled the press over membership numbers.
Asked if she had heard whether she or her husband will be interviewed by police, Ms Sturgeon responded: “No. I wouldn’t comment on any ongoing police investigation and I am not going to comment on this one.”
The SNP has previously denied any wrongdoing around party finances.
Sturgeon ‘doesn’t regret’ gender reforms
Ms Sturgeon insisted the probe did not play any part in her sudden resignation last month – saying it was a mix of personal and political reasons.
And she said she “doesn’t regret” pushing forward with her gender recognition bill – which critics have suggested is what brought her down.
“The threat to women are abusive and predatory men, not trans people. So I don’t regret taking on that issue,” she said.
“My regret is that I wasn’t able to take the debate and discourse around it, into a more rational place
“That’s part of what I’ve been saying here. Maybe I’ve been in politics too long now to be able to do that as effectively as I need to.”
The outgoing first minister added that she had received “more toxic abuse on this issue, much of it from women claiming to care about women’s rights and women’s safety than I have on probably any other issue”.
“I’ve never doubted I’m doing the right thing”
Reflecting on her last few weeks in office, Ms Sturgeon said she had “mixed emotions” but said “I’ve never doubted that I’m doing the right thing. And that’s in my core. I feel that in my gut”.
Asked if she could have stayed on until the next general election she replied: “Yeah, I could have done but at what cost to myself?”
She said that in politics “maybe because it’s tended to be more men than women doing it, there has been a tendency to cling on” and she did not want to do that.
“I think anybody should only ever do a job like this if you can give it everything and that’s not just 100% of your work – a job like this you should give everything of yourself. You’re never off duty.
“I’m not complaining about this, it is part and parcel of what the job is about. I can’t just open my door and go for a walk with a friend on a Saturday morning, I can’t just go for coffee.
“All the things people take for granted are not there for you. and I think there is only so long anybody can and should do that.”