Jeremy Corbyn won't stand as Labour candidate

Labour leader Keir Starmer has announced that former leader Jeremy Corbyn will not stand as a Labour candidate at the next General Election. The announcement came as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) removed the “special measures” which the party had been placed in following the row on allegations of antisemitism. In a clear sign that Starmer intends to move on from the Corbyn era and stamp his own considerably more Blairite mark on the party, he invited those MPs who have long-supported Corbyn to leave the party if they did not agree with the direction Labour is going in. It's a clear sign for those of us in Scotland that the only choice the British state gives us is between unapologetic Tories and the apologetic Tories of Blue Labour. Labour's brief fling with more overtly socialist politics is well and truly over.

The National: Sir Keir stands for not being Jeremy Corbyn

Sources in the party have made it clear that should Corbyn (above) decide to stand as an Independent against the official Labour candidate, if the Momentum campaign associated with his leadership chooses to support him, it will be proscribed as an organisation in the same way that Militant once was. And Corbyn's supporters in Labour are already finding that the party is moving against them. Glasgow councillor Matt Kerr failed party vetting in the city’s south, meaning the seat for the next General Election will be taken by Dr Zubir Ahmed, a schoolmate and neighbour of Anas Sarwar. Needless to say, this has led to accusations of an anti-left-wing stitch-up. Combined with the recent announcement that Douglas Alexander has been selected as a Labour candidate, Starmer may well get his Blairite wish.

Nicola Sturgeon resigns

But the only story in town in Scottish politics is the sudden resignation of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister. Even for those who dislike her, there can be no doubt that Sturgeon is a towering figure in Scottish politics, and even after more than eight years as First Minister, she still enjoys approval ratings that her opponents can only dream of. There were fleeting rumours of her incoming resignation, but the announcement when it came was a shock to most. It is very much the end of an era in Scottish politics.

At a press conference to announce her resignation, the outgoing First Minister categorically denied that her decision had anything to do with recent controversies such as the heated and often bad-tempered debate about Gender Recognition certificates and refused to be drawn on questions about whether it had anything to do with the ongoing police investigation into the party's finances.

She insisted that her decision had nothing to do with those short-term political pressures, noting that she had dealt with immense political pressures in the past. There are indeed plentiful examples such as the Salmond trial and subsequent investigation into what she did or did not know and dealing with the Covid pandemic. Such pressures, she noted, are very much part and parcel of the job.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon deserves the Yes movement's utmost respectNicola Sturgeon deserves the Yes movement's utmost respect

She hinted in her resignation speech at the immense personal toll that being in such a high-pressure job takes on an individual on a human level. Of course, being in a high-profile political job means that your actions and views become open to public scrutiny and criticism – that is part and parcel of a functioning democracy. However, Sturgeon has been subjected to an intense, constant, and unceasing barrage of criticism, not all of it justified, and much of which has been unnecessarily and unpleasantly personal. Some of which have verged into deeply nasty abusiveness, going way beyond anything that's the normal back and forth of politics. This kind of attack is bad enough when it comes from your political opponents, but psychologically it is far more difficult to shrug off when it comes from those who are supposed to be on your side. But she has dealt with those attacks with a personal dignity that is alien to those who resort to crude personal abuse against her.

Sturgeon certainly recognised that she has come to embody division and divisiveness in her resignation speech. I suspect that she was not referring to the divisions between die-hard British nationalists and independence supporters, but rather to the divisions within the independence movement. As we approach a critical moment in the campaign for independence, a historic decision on how to proceed in the face of the anti-democratic intransigence of the anglo-British Brexit parties, the need for unity within the independence campaign has never been more vital.

It is to Sturgeon's immense credit that she has the personal and political maturity to recognise that much-needed unity cannot be achieved while she remains the leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland. But one thing is certain – those critics who decried her as a careerist have been comprehensively proven wrong.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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