In 1989 when I was working for Punch, I visited Bucharest a few days after the fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu in December 1989 and it was wonderful. People were celebrating in the streets, almost as if it was VE Day. A great weight had been lifted from their shoulders – the hated Marxist control system had finally been vanquished – and people were free to think and say what they liked. I imagine the atmosphere in Scotland in the next few days will be remarkably similar.
The proximate cause of Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation was her mishandling of the Isla Bryson debacle. Whenever gender critical feminists draw attention to the risk that convicted male rapists will end up being housed in women’s prisons if self-ID is made easier, trans rights activists accuse them of the ‘straw man’ fallacy. But Isla Bryson was the straw man come to life and Sturgeon has been on the backfoot since the moment he appeared, bereft of her usual political gifts. She and her advisors must have concluded there was no coming back from this and she had to go for the good of the cause.
Taking one step back, it seems like a case of ‘Get woke, go broke,’ since something like this was bound to happen to discredit the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which Sturgeon had gone all-in on. The Scottish people just aren’t ready to embrace a policy of gender self-ID and all its ramifications, and may never be. Even if Isla Bryson hadn’t popped up at exactly the wrong moment, it was only a matter of time before there was another, similar scandal.
An elderly Muslim lady on a Scottish hospital ward waking up to see a naked man in the next-door bed. A Scottish female track star being denied a medal because she’s pipped to the post by a man. A male domestic abuser turning up at a Glaswegian women’s refuge and demanding entry. This is progressive overreach, arrogantly shoving a woke policy down the throats of the public and not realising how much opposition there’s going to be because you never leave your ideological bubble.
Taking another step back, I like to think Sturgeon is going for the same reason Jacinda Ardern went – because she realised no leader can hope to get re-elected after embracing the disastrous zero-Covid policy. It’s clear now that Scotland’s draconian non-pharmaceutical interventions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 were a catastrophic failure, imposing a massive cost without any benefits. And those costs continue to accumulate, with drug and alcohol addiction soaring, educational attainment plummeting, hospitals bursting at the seams, and the economy in the doldrums.
It was ever thus in SNP-run Scotland, but Sturgeon’s hopeless mismanagement of the pandemic, always trying to out-Ceaușescu Boris, has made everything worse. She leaves behind a country in crisis, worse in virtually every respect after her nine years as First Minister. Even more catastrophic from her point of view, there’s now less public support for independence than there was when she took office – and I imagine it was that, more than anything else, that did for her.