Nicola Sturgeon, who stood at the helm of Scotland’s government for nearly a decade, rose through her party’s ranks to became the most prominent figure in Scottish politics.
Ms. Sturgeon, 52, was born in 1970 in the Scottish town of Irvine and went on to study law at the University of Glasgow. She worked as a lawyer in Glasgow before entering the Scottish Parliament as a regional representative in 1999.
Her rise to stardom in Scottish politics began early. At just 16, she joined the Scottish National Party, then still considered a fringe political movement that struggled to win elections. On Wednesday, as she announced her plans to step down as Scotland’s first minister, she called the party her “extended family” since her teenage years.
Ms. Sturgeon had said the election of Margaret Thatcher as Britain’s prime minister in 1979 inspired her own entry into politics because she blamed Ms. Thatcher’s policies for rising unemployment in Scotland.
Ms. Sturgeon served as the deputy first minister of Scotland under Alex Salmond, her one-time political mentor, and the pair led the campaign for Scotland to become independent from the United Kingdom. But after a failed independence referendum in 2014, in which 55 percent of Scottish voters supported staying in the union, Mr. Salmond stepped down as the head of the Scottish National Party.
In November 2014, Ms. Sturgeon was elected leader of the party unopposed, becoming Scotland’s first minister and the first woman to hold that position. Months later, the party won a landslide victory during the British general election, increasing its six seats in the House of Commons to 56, out of 59 seats allotted to Scotland.
“The tectonic plates of Scottish politics shifted,” Ms. Sturgeon said of that election.
Her brand of Scottish nationalism has been aimed at a global audience, and she has regularly positioned herself on the world stage, advocating for an independent Scotland that engages with the world.
“People who think of a nationalist party sometimes think, inward-looking and parochial,” she said during a 2015 interview with The New York Times. “The kind of nationalism I represent is the opposite of that.”
In 2021, during the COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow, Ms. Sturgeon explained that having grown up in the 1970s and 1980s in Scotland made her acutely aware of the consequences of the decline of industries like coal and steel in Britain, which caused unemployment to rise.
But while she said Scotland had to manage the transition away from fossil fuels carefully, she had long supported tackling climate change, which she said the nation would be better positioned to do if independent.