Whatever Nicola Sturgeon has been contemplating over the past few weeks as she went from having plenty in the tank to resignation, but on Wednesday’s showing it wasn’t the reality of what the undoubted strength of her personality has created.
Having sat in the Scottish Parliament and listened every week to the almost complete absence of tolerance for any opinion other than her own and spent the previous five years putting up with her acolytes parroting the same brand of bitterness at Edinburgh Council, I should have expected she would blame everyone but herself for the anger and division which is the hallmark of her tenure.
She’s had eight years to lead the whole of Scotland and instead she’s worked relentlessly against the interests of the majority who believe in the United Kingdom, right up to Wednesday when she asserted against all evidence there is majority support for separation.
I will not deny her electoral record is hugely impressive, but she has abused the privilege of eight years in office by using every lever to widen the gap from the rest of Britain and create division where it didn’t exist.
If Covid was her toughest test, even that was a triumph of style over substance in which divergence was prioritised, even to the point of trying to close the border in case visitors from England “re-seeded” the virus which we were meant to believe she was about to eradicate.
Like everything in the Sturgeon administration, good news was her doing and bad news was someone else’s fault, and so it continued on Wednesday. “Too often I see issues presented and as a result viewed – not on their own merits – but through the prism of what I think and what people think about me,” she said with zero self-awareness, as if someone else was ramming through deeply unpopular and divisive policies like gender recognition reform and the deposit return scheme.
It is indeed an “opportunity to de-polarise public debate”, as she put it, and to “reset the tone and tenor of our discourse,” but her failure to accept any responsibility for setting that tone in the first place is itself proof of the problem.
If fixed opinions about her are “barriers to reasoned debate” in Scotland, she obviously hasn’t considered her unflinching, aggressive dogmatism when faced with the very calls for reason she now claims to desire might be part of the problem.
Whoever succeeds her needs to get their eye back on the ball and focus on what really matters to the vast majority of people, not the vested interests of politically-driven pressure groups.
That means addressing achievement in a failing education system, not manipulating university entry to make spurious claims about closing the attainment gap. It means doing what works to stop people needlessly dying from addictions, not passing the buck. It means recognising ruinous environmental posturing threatens to wreck the livelihoods of thousands.
And it means understanding that a constructive relationship with Westminster will benefit Scotland far more than a relentless quest for grievance and slight in every positive initiative.
As Nicola Sturgeon leaves the stage, so too should the curtain fall on the grinding years of grudge which have done nothing but drag this proud country down. We can, as she said, but hope.