Nicola Sturgeon: 10 charts showing First Minister’s legacy in Scotland, from A&E waiting times to exam results

Nicola Sturgeon steps down this week after more than eight years as Scotland’s First Minister, but how has life on the ground changed for Scottish people during her tenure?

Scotland's departing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is spending her final days in the top job.

But has life improved or worsened for people since she began to lead the country, back in November 2014?

Here are 10 charts which show how performance has changed across a range of crucial areas, from school attainment to A&E waiting times.

Nicola Sturgeon is stepping down as Scotland's First Minister. Composite image: NationalWorld/Getty/Adobe StockNicola Sturgeon is stepping down as Scotland's First Minister. Composite image: NationalWorld/Getty/Adobe Stock
Nicola Sturgeon is stepping down as Scotland's First Minister. Composite image: NationalWorld/Getty/Adobe Stock


The crime rate has fallen across Scotland during Sturgeon’s tenure. In the year ending March 2022, police recorded 524 crimes per 10,000 people, a fall of 16% since 2013/14. In comparison, England and Wales saw recorded crime rates rise by 49% over the same period.

Scotland’s crime survey also shows marked improvements. The survey asks a sample of the public whether they have been victims of crime. There was no survey in 2013/14, but the one carried out in 2014/15 estimated the crime rate at 2,330 per 10,000 people. In 2019/20, this had fallen by 24% to 1,770 per 10,000 people.

However, crime levels have improved in some areas more than others. Look up recorded crime figures in your local area using our interactive chart.



Health services across the UK have been under extreme pressure since the Covid-19 pandemic, with this winter being one of the toughest on record.

Official A&E targets state 95% of patients should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, but NHS Scotland has failed to achieve this since the start of the pandemic. The proportion of attendees being seen within four hours plummeted to an all-time low in December 2022, when just 62.1% were seen within the target timeframe. 


Hospital waiting lists also continue to worsen in Scotland. In December there were almost 780,000 waiting for treatment or tests, representing a 121.7% increase on March 2014’s figures, according to Public Health Scotland data. The number waiting has grown dramatically since the start of the pandemic when the health system was under acute pressure. 



The pass rate for National 5 and Higher exams in Scotland has stayed relatively stable across Scotland during Sturgeon’s time as First Minister, according to figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This is with the exception of 2020 and 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic caused widespread disruption to the education system and external exams were replaced by teacher assessments, which saw pass rates temporarily rise.



The unemployment rate has fallen sharply since Sturgeon became Scotland’s First Minister. The rate has fallen from 5.4% in the three months to December 2014, around the time she took office, to 3.2% in the three months to January 2023. 

This is in line with similar falls in unemployment seen across the UK nations, ONS figures show.


See how unemployment has changed in your area using this interactive chart.


Average wages

In Scotland, average wages have increased in real terms since 2014, bucking the UK trend.

The median income of full-time employees in Scotland, before tax, was £33,332 in 2022, a real-terms rise of 1.3% since 2014, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).


Across the UK as a whole, the median income of full-time employees, before tax, was £33,000 in 2022, a 0.4% fall since 2014.

However, the change in wages during Sturgeon’s tenure varies substantially across different areas of Scotland. Real-time wages are up 13.7% in Angus but down 17.1% in South Ayrshire over this eight-year period.


Drug deaths

The number of drug-related deaths has more than doubled during Sturgeon’s time in office with almost 8,300 lives being lost since 2014, according to data published by the National Records of Scotland. The public health crisis remains an ongoing battle for Sturgeon’s government who have seen a record high number of deaths in recent years. The country has the highest drug-related death rate in the UK with 245 per million people, five times greater than the England national average of 50 per million people.

Glasgow remains the worst affected area of Scotland for drug-related deaths, recording more deaths than any other council in the country during Sturgeon’s time in office. The city has recorded 1,794 deaths between 2014 and 2021. 


Child poverty

Despite progressive policies such as the Baby Box and the increase of the Scottish Child Payment to £25 a week, hundreds of thousands of children were still living in poverty, after the cost of housing was taken into account.

However, the most recent figure, of 23% of children in relative poverty in 2021/22, is below the UK average of 29%.

Relative poverty, which is most commonly used to measure poverty levels, looks at whether low-income households are keeping up with middle income households. The relative poverty line is 60% of median UK income. The figures under this measure have fluctuated during Sturgeon’s time in office.


Absolute poverty, which measures whether the incomes of low-income households are keeping pace with inflation, shows a similar pattern but with the proportion reaching an eight-year low last year. 

The severe poverty line is 50% of median UK income and looks at whether the lowest-income households are keeping pace with middle income households. Under this measure the proportion of children in such poverty has generally increased during Sturgeon’s time in office, rising four percentage points from 12% in 2014/15 to 16% in 2021/22.