Nicola Sturgeon made history as the first woman in Bute House – now she is also Scotland’s longest serving First Minister.

Born in Irvine, North Ayrshire, on July 19 1970, Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon attended Greenwood Academy in Dreghorn before studying law at Glasgow University and then working as a solicitor at an advice centre in the city’s Drumchapel area.

Ms Sturgeon said she was inspired to enter politics as a reaction against growing up in the era of Margaret Thatcher.

Whe entered the political arena in earnest at just 21 – in a losing effort at the 1992 General Election – but would go on to hone her political skills as one of the first tranche of MSPs to be elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

She rose through the ranks of the SNP, seeking the leadership in 2004 after the departure of her future deputy, John Swinney.

But it was her mentor Alex Salmond who would re-enter the fray, courting Ms Sturgeon as his running mate as he took over control of the party he had led between 1990 and 2000.

With Mr Salmond no longer holding a seat at Holyrood, she was called on to take on leadership duties in Edinburgh, clashing with first minister Jack McConnell at First Minister’s Questions.


By 2007, the SNP were in power and the pairing of Salmond and Sturgeon controlled the newly-renamed Scottish Government, with Ms Sturgeon also taking on the mantle of health secretary.

Her overseeing of the swine flu epidemic would foreshadow her later stewardship of Scotland through the coronavirus pandemic, which, as of this week, would go on to claim the lives of 12,319 Scots.

Through some of the darkest days of the pandemic, the First Minister would deliver daily briefings and take questions from the press.

But, it was a vote in 2014 that would bring her closest to completing her political life’s work – the push for Scottish independence.

After the SNP majority at Holyrood in 2011, prime minister David Cameron agreed to hold a referendum on separation, signed into law in the form of the Edinburgh Agreement and setting the date of September 18 2014.

The campaign thrust Ms Sturgeon to the fore as she took to the streets to build support, speaking at venues across the country and culminating in a speech to 12,000 people at the Hydro in Glasgow.

In the wake of the Yes campaign’s 55%-45% defeat in the referendum, Alex Salmond resigned, setting the stage for his long-time deputy to step up.

She was elected unopposed as SNP leader and backed by her MSPs to become First Minister, before going on to win 56 of 59 seats in the 2015 General Election in her first poll in the top job.


Sturgeon and Salmond: A severed alliance 

What followed was sustained electoral success for the party that even Ms Sturgeon could never have dreamed of in her early days in politics, cementing the SNP as Scotland’s leading party and herself as one of the most well-known politicians in the UK.

The First Minister’s zeal for independence would continue, with her current Government planning to hold a referendum by the end of next year – despite repeated refusals from Westminster to devolve the necessary powers and the looming possibility of a court battle if Holyrood tries to press ahead alone.

But, despite consistent wins at the ballot box, the First Minister’s tenure has been dotted with scandal.

The relationship with Mr Salmond soured in a very public spat after he was accused of inappropriate behaviour by two Scottish Government officials while first minister and later cleared of 13 charges including attempted rape at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Mr Salmond took legal action against the Scottish Government over its investigation, which the Court of Session said was “tainted with apparent bias”, awarding Mr Salmond £511,250.

A Scottish Parliament committee set up to probe the botched handling of the complaints resulted in mud slinging between the two former confidants, with Ms Sturgeon strenuously denying Mr Salmond’s accusations of a conspiracy against him.

While the First Minister was cleared of breaching the ministerial code, the committee would conclude she had misled MSPs over a meeting she had with Mr Salmond in her home when the complaints were discussed.


Nicola Sturgeon met with President Joe Biden during COP26

Mr Salmond would go on to lead the Alba Party, taking with him some of the SNP’s most ardent supporters.

The party would fail to elect a single representative in each of its first two elections.

The First Minister has also said publicly she has regrets with how the Scottish Government handled parts of the Covid-19 pandemic, including stating she would – in hindsight – have locked the country down earlier as the first wave of the virus hit.

The Scottish Government has also been criticised by official bodies for the discharging of hospital patients into care homes in the early part of the pandemic and a lack of preparedness.

Even as she becomes the longest serving First Minister in history, Ms Sturgeon is still dealing with pressure over the country’s transport network.

Two late and over-budget ferries being built at the Government-owned Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow continue to plague her, with recent revelations showing the body charged with procuring ferries raising concerns about the contract before it was signed.


The newly-nationalised ScotRail is also a cause for concern for the Scottish Government, with the operator slashing more than 700 services as a result of a pay dispute causing a shortage of drivers.

Nicola Sturgeon has become the longest serving First Minister in Scotland since devolution.

The First Minister overtook her former mentor Alex Salmond on Wednesday, serving in the role for seven years, six months and five days.

Here are the key dates in the First Minister’s time in charge:



– April 9

Ms Sturgeon first stands for election in the 1992 general election in the Glasgow Shettleston constituency, as the youngest candidate in the country at the time.

The 21-year-old fails to unseat Labour incumbent David Marshall, who won more than 60% of the vote, but comes second with 6,831 votes and increases the SNP vote by 6.4%


– May 6

Nicola Sturgeon is elected as an MSP in the first Scottish parliamentary election, representing the Glasgow region.

John Swinney, Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond and Mike Russell in 1999Nicola Sturgeon was elected in the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999 (Ben Curtis/PA)


– September 3

Ms Sturgeon is voted deputy leader of the SNP, with her mentor Alex Salmond re-taking the mantle of party leader.


– May 17

The SNP wins the Holyrood election, forming a minority administration with Mr Salmond at its helm. Ms Sturgeon becomes Deputy First Minister, as well as being health secretary until 2012 and infrastructure secretary until 2014.


– October 15

David Cameron and Alex Salmond sign the Edinburgh Agreement, setting the date for a referendum on Scottish independence for September 18 2014. Ms Sturgeon will play a leading role in the campaign.

Nicola Sturgeon being sworn in as First MinisterNicola Sturgeon was sworn in as First Minister in 2014 (Ciaran Donnelly/PA)


– September 18

The Yes campaign loses the referendum by 55% to 45%. Alex Salmond resigns as First Minister the following day, with only Nicola Sturgeon tipped to replace him.

– November 14

Nicola Sturgeon is elected leader of the SNP unopposed. Stewart Hosie is elected as her deputy.

– November 19

Ms Sturgeon is elected First Minister in a Holyrood vote, the first woman to do so, thanks to the SNP majority won at the 2011 election.

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

– November 20

Nicola Sturgeon is sworn into office as First Minister at the Court of Session.


– May 7

The SNP cruise to a historic landslide in the UK general election, just six months into the First Minister’s tenure, winning 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland.

Ahead of the election, Ms Sturgeon makes clear the vote is not about holding another referendum on Scottish independence.


– May 5

The SNP slide back in the Holyrood election losing six seats and the party’s overall majority in the face of a surge for the Scottish Conservatives.

However, the party continues to be the largest in Parliament, with 63 MSPs, and continues as a minority Government.

The SNP will repeatedly seek help from the Scottish Greens to pass budgets and other key legislation.

Nicola Sturgeon speaking in front of flags of Scotland and the EUNicola Sturgeon was steadfastly against leaving the EU (Jane Barlow/PA)

– June 23

The UK votes to leave the European Union in a referendum by 52% to 48%. Some 62% of Scottish voters supported remaining within the bloc.

Nicola Sturgeon, in a speech the following day, said there had been a “material change” in the circumstances within the UK and a second independence vote was “highly likely”.


– March 28

The Scottish Parliament votes by 69 to 59 to allow the Scottish Government to begin talks on a Section 30 order, which would devolve the powers to hold another vote to Holyrood.

Then prime minister Theresa May, in the first of a long line of rejections on the issue, says “now is not the time” for another vote.

– June 8

SNP drop 21 seats in the 2019 General Election, falling to 35 MPs, on a manifesto calling for an independence referendum to be held “after the Brexit process”.

– June 27

Due to the election result, Ms Sturgeon tells MSPs she will put planning for another vote on hold, claiming some Scots “just want a break from the pressure of making big political decisions”.


– January

Two female staff members make formal complaints to the Scottish Government about Alex Salmond’s conduct in December 2013 when he was first minister.

An internal investigation is established and investigating officer Judith Mackinnon is appointed.

– March 7

The Permanent Secretary tells Mr Salmond about the investigation.

– March 29

Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, meets Ms Sturgeon at Holyrood and discusses the allegations.

In her written evidence to the committee investigating the handling of the complaints in 2020, Ms Sturgeon says she forgot about this meeting until “late January/early February” 2019.

– April 2

Mr Salmond meets Ms Sturgeon at her home in Glasgow and tells her that he is under investigation.

In Mr Salmond’s later written evidence to a Holyrood inquiry on the matter, he states the First Minister “suggested that she would intervene in favour of a mediation process at an appropriate stage” but subsequently decided against intervening.

Ms Sturgeon has argued she thought this was a party meeting, rather than a Government one.

– June 7

Ms Sturgeon meets Mr Salmond in Aberdeen, ahead of the SNP conference.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex SalmondNicola Sturgeon met with Alex Salmond in her home where the allegations against him were discussed (Andrew Milligan/PA)

– August 21

The Crown Office passes complaints about Mr Salmond to police.

– August 23

The Daily Record newspaper breaks news of the allegations against Mr Salmond in a tweet.

– August 28

Mr Salmond lodges a petition for a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

– September 14

Police confirm they have launched an investigation into the complaints against Mr Salmond, separate from the Government’s investigation and the judicial review process.


– January 8

A week before the full judicial review is due to start, the Scottish Government concedes defeat at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The Government’s lawyers accept that investigating officer Ms Mackinnon has had previous contact with the complainers.

The court concludes the investigation was therefore “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias”.

Mr Salmond is awarded more than £500,000 as a result of the ruling.

– January 13

Ms Sturgeon refers herself to independent advisers to rule on whether she breached the ministerial code in her meetings with Mr Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon with new MPs following the 2019 electionThe SNP returned 48 MPs in 2019 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

– December 12

The SNP vote rebounds in 2019 General Election, returning 48 MPs.

The success results in the First Minister ramping up calls for another independence referendum.


– March 1

Scotland records its first case of Covid-19 in Tayside.

– March 9

Mr Salmond’s criminal trial starts at the High Court in Edinburgh.

– March 23

Ms Sturgeon announces Scotland will be placed into lockdown as a result of the increasing coronavirus cases.

The country would spend most of the next two years under some kind of restriction as a result of the pandemic.

Mr Salmond was acquitted of all 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh.

– October 28

A report by Public Health Scotland shows that 113 people were discharged from hospital into care homes without receiving a negative test for the virus in the early part of the pandemic.

The First Minister said moving patients into care homes “was not found to have contributed to a significantly higher risk of an outbreak”.

– August 18

A Holyrood committee set up to investigate the handling of complaints against Mr Salmond that resulted in the pay-out – the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints – hears evidence from its first witness, then permanent secretary Leslie Evans.


– February 26

Mr Salmond gives evidence to the Holyrood committee.

He says Scotland’s “leadership has failed” and calls for the Lord Advocate and Ms Evans to resign over the handling of the complaints against him.

He says he has “no doubt” Ms Sturgeon broke rules governing the behaviour of ministers, which she denies, but stops short of saying she should resign.

Nicola Sturgeon appearing before the Salmond committeeNicola Sturgeon gave evidence to the Salmond inquiry (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

– March 3

Ms Sturgeon gives evidence to the committee and maintains she did not intervene in the investigation as it would have been an abuse of her role.

She said Mr Salmond’s claims of a plot against him are “absurd” and her Government has nothing to hide.

– March 22

An independent report by judge James Hamilton QC clears the First Minister of breaching the ministerial code following the Government’s botched handling of allegations against Mr Salmond.

– March 23

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints finds Ms Sturgeon misled MSPs while giving evidence.

It says there was a “fundamental contradiction” in her evidence on whether she agreed to intervene in a Scottish Government investigation into complaints by two women against the former first minister.

Ms Sturgeon survives a vote of no confidence, brought by the Scottish Tories, who claimed she misled Parliament and ignored legal advice.

The vote fell by 65 votes to 31 with 27 abstentions.

– April 14

Scotland surpasses 10,000 deaths linked to the virus.

– May 6

SNP increases its share of MSPs to 64, still shy of a majority.

– May 26

First Minister announces she is in talks with the Scottish Greens over a potential agreement between the two parties.

Patrick Harvie, Nicola Sturgeon and Lorna Slater in Bute HouseThe agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens was signed in August of 2021 (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

– August 20

The co-operation agreement between the two parties, solidifying the Scottish Government’s majority, is announced.

A shared policy platform is published, including exceptions where the two parties can disagree such as an independent Scotland’s membership of Nato.

Greens co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater become Scottish Government ministers.

– October 31

Cop26 opens in Glasgow. The First Minister was present at the conference for most of the two weeks, meeting with foreign dignitaries.


– May 25

Nicola Sturgeon becomes the longest-serving First Minister in Scotland since devolution.