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by Kirsteen Paterson
16 May 2023
Nicola Sturgeon: I underestimated the depth of polarisation in politics

Nicola Sturgeon resigned as first minister in February

Nicola Sturgeon: I underestimated the depth of polarisation in politics

Nicola Sturgeon has said she "underestimated the problem" of polarisation in politics before stepping down as first minister.

In a defence of plans to run a pilot of jury-less trials for rape in Scotland, Sturgeon said it is "depressingly striking in today's politics just how quickly people adopt fixed and immovable positions" on issues including the pilot of judge-only rape trials as part of a sweeping justice reforms package.

The Scottish Government aims to improve the conviction rate for sexual offences and to better the experience of the judicial system for victims of crime.

There has been considerable opposition to the proposed pilot from defence lawyers, with vocal criticism too from opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament.

Sturgeon was FM when the cabinet signed off the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill which includes the proposal. Tory justice spokesperson Jamie Greene has said "the government cannot ignore" the concerns raised from within the judiciary.

Writing in The Guardian, Sturgeon recalled how concerns about being a polarising figure were amongst her reasons for standing down. She goes on: "On the issue of polarisation, I think that, if anything, I underestimated the depth of the problem."

Defending the legislation, Sturgeon said she is "open to discussion on all aspects of it".

She said: "Before the ink was even dry on the draft legislation and without a single word of debate or evidence being heard in parliament, let alone the shape of the final proposal being known, fixed positions had been staked.

"I am not expecting, or even trying, to change minds with this article - but I am expressing a hope that it is not too late for us all to take a breath. This issue matters. It should be beyond party politics. And it should not be beyond our body politic to approach it differently."

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