Nicola Sturgeon becomes Scotland’s longest serving First Minister surpassing Alex Salmond

Nicola Sturgeon has today become Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister surpassing her predecessor Alex Salmond.

The SNP leader has been in power for seven years, six months and five days.

The 51-year-old took over from Salmond who stepped down as First Minister after the independence referendum in 2014 where Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

During the campaign the pair worked closely during the first-ever SNP administration in the Scottish Parliament.

Over the last couple of years their relationship has collapsed over the government’s handling of harassment claims made against Salmond.

Sturgeon became leader of the SNP on November 14, 2014 after she was elected unopposed.

Nicola Sturgeon with Alex Salmond after he resigned as First Minister in November 2014
Nicola Sturgeon with Alex Salmond after he resigned as First Minister in November 2014

Just five days later on November 19 she was elected the first ever female First Minister of Scotland after a vote in Holyrood.

Sturgeon won 66 votes, compared to Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson’s 15 and 39 abstentions.

On November 20, Sturgeon was sworn into office as First Minister at the Court of Session.

Months after coming to power the SNP won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland in the UK general election in 2015.

A year later the party lost its Holyrood majority at the Scottish Parliament election, however the SNP continued as a minority government.

In June 2016, the UK votes to leave the EU with 62 per cent of Scots supporting remain. Sturgeon said there had been a “material change” in the circumstances within the UK and a second independence vote was “highly likely”

Theresa May calls an election in 2017 where the SNP loses 21 MPs – falling to 35 MPs.

However, two years later at the end of 2019 the SNP returns 48 MPs.

Sturgeon is unlikely to celebrate the milestone as she is self-isolating at home as she recovers from coronavirus. The FM released a statement on Monday saying she was “knocked for six” by the virus after testing positive last Friday.

The Scottish Government is also facing criticism over cuts in services by the newly nationalised ScotRail and ongoing questions over the construction of two new ferries for lifeline routes, which are years late and millions of pounds over budget.

Sturgeon’s biggest task is yet to come as she looks to hold an independence referendum by the end of 2023.

The referendum Bill, which is yet to be published by the Scottish Government, is expected to pledge a referendum before the end of 2023 – the official government timeline for another vote.

Nicola Sturgeon poses for photographs in front of the V & A Museum with newly-elected SNP MPs following the party's success in the 2019 election
Nicola Sturgeon poses for photographs in front of the V & A Museum with newly-elected SNP MPs following the party’s success in the 2019 election

Boris Johnson and the UK Government has repeatedly said another vote on the constitution will not be held. digging in their heels

It is unlikely the required powers will be devolved to Scotland to hold another referendum, meaning the passage of the Bill – guaranteed thanks to the power-sharing agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens – could end up in court.

The Scots government would then build a case that the Scotland Act 2016 allows for the Scottish Parliament to legislate for another referendum.

Criticism from opposition leaders

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar acknowledged the milestone but hit out at Sturgeon’s record in office.

He said: “This is undoubtedly a personal achievement for Nicola Sturgeon – but ultimately she will be judged on her record.

“Never in the history of devolution has there been a First Minister with so much power and time but who has done so little with it.

“Under this First Minister’s watch child poverty has risen, NHS waiting times have soared, rail services have been cut and the attainment gap remains huge.

“While Nicola Sturgeon is strong on rhetoric and grandstanding, the reality of her failures mean that thousands of Scots are unable to receive NHS treatment and even more are being hit in the pocket by the cost of living crisis.

Nicola Sturgeon with Alex Salmond on the campaign trail during the 2015 election
Nicola Sturgeon with Alex Salmond on the campaign trail during the 2015 election

“The legacy of this First Minister will be one of division and building an us vs them culture in our country. We can’t go on like this.”

While, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross described Sturgeon’s record as “appalling”, pointing to rising drug deaths, the poverty-related attainment gap in education and problems in the NHS.

He said: “All this mismanagement and failure has played out against a backdrop of a nation divided due to Nicola Sturgeon continually picking at its constitutional scab.

“Instead of healing Scotland after the 2014 referendum, her constant push for another vote has split the public, distracted her Government and left business in limbo.

“For these reasons, history will look back on her legacy as extremely damaging for Scotland.”

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