Nicola Sturgeon: A Young Political Prodigy
Born on 19 July 1970 in North Ayrshire, Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon became the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 2014.
Sturgeon was the fifth Scottish leader and the first woman to become the prime minister since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and government in 1999.
Being quite fond of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher —despite opposing some of her conservative policies—Sturgeon became involved in SNP at an early age when she was sixteen.
In 1992, Sturgeon graduated from the University of Glasgow with a law degree and became a solicitor with a Glasgow based law firm, but soon pursued her ambitions in politics.
In 1999, Sturgeon won a seat as a member of the Scottish Parliament in the new legislative body’s first election.
First Minister Sturgeon was one of SNP’s most prominent members in opposing a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition. She also joined SNP’s National Executive Committee, acting as its spokeswoman for health, education and justice.
Subsequent to John Swinney’s— former SNP leader—resignation in 2004, Sturgeon announced that she would run for the SNP leadership position, but then withdrew from the candidacy in favour of Alex Salmond who had been the party leader prior to Swinney, replacing him in 2000.
Nicola Sturgeon did agree to be running mate to Alex Salmond and became deputy leader of the SNP following Salmond’s victory.
But Salmond was more a member of the UK Parliament rather than a member of the Scottish Parliament. Therefore, Sturgeon practically led the SNP for almost three years in Salmond’s absence.
During this time, Sturgeon gained a reputation for her red-blooded attacks on First Minister Jack McConnell of the Labour Party. This led to a bigger success for the SNP in the 2007 elections.
The SNP won the 2007 elections for the Scottish Parliament, with Salmond as First Minister and Sturgeon as his deputy and minister for public health and well-being.
The SNP also won a majority in the 2011 election, enabling the party to redeem its purpose and promise to hold a referendum on Scottish independence.
The Scottish independence referendum was held in September 2014, with the majority voting to remain in the United Kingdom.
But the margin of defeat for the SNP was very narrow, more than previous expectations. Sturgeon was the star of the referendum, running an effective campaign.
In the same year, Sturgeon succeeded Salmond after his resignation and became Scotland’s First Minister and the leader of her party.
She promised to utilise her position and power to push the UK Government to transfer more powers to Scotland.
SNP’s historic landslide victory in the May 2015 general election was as a result of Sturgeon’s campaigning, as the Party’s share of the seats in the UK Parliament rose from 6 to 56.
In those days, Sturgeon was most famous for opposing the inclemency of Prime Minister David Cameron’s policies, which became the focus of her campaign for Scottish independence.
Later, she was the reason for SNP’s third victory in a row in the elections for the Scottish Parliament in 2016 and chose to form a minority government; she did not consent to form a coalition with the Scottish Green Party.
Nicola Sturgeon, Brexit and Independence
First Minister Sturgeon was pro-remain in the run-up to the June referendum concerning the European Union membership.
Despite 62% of Scots voting to remain as a part of the bloc, the UK voted to leave with 52% of the British population in favour of leaving the EU.
When the results came out, Sturgeon took the first step to put a new referendum on Scottish Independence forward again. She tried to negotiate with the UK Brexit Secretary on the subject of separate trade and immigration protocols for Scotland, in which she was unsuccessful.
“Scotland isn’t full up. If you are as appalled as we are at the path this Westminster government is taking, come and join us. Come here to live, work, invest, or study” —Said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in SNP’s spring conference in March 2017.
Sturgeons efforts to hold a new independence referendum by spring 2019 did not have the favourable outcome she wished for as Scots where not ready for a second referendum, creating a major setback for the SNP.
Sturgeon waited for the terms of the Brexit deal to be revealed in order to take her next step toward a second referendum for the Scots.
Sturgeon and the SNP also struggle with an identity crisis. What does the future look like for a party and a first minister basing their entire strategy on independence?
Salmond Is Annoying
These days, Scotland is faced with a crisis other than the coronavirus, and this is the SNP’s clash of the titans.
It all started in 2018 when two female civil servants accused former Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, of sexual harassment. The allegations were strongly denied.
Salmond, believing that he was aimed at directly, asked for new government policies on sexual harassment to be put in place in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Later, the Scottish government admitted to acting unlawfully and paid Salmond’s legal fees of more than £500,000.
Alex Salmond accused First Minister Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell of plotting against him.
Salmond was arrested and charged in 2019. He was cleared of all 13 charges after a trial last March.
Salmond called the allegations nothing more than “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose”, or “exaggerations”, implying that First Minister Sturgeon had something to do with it.
In return, Sturgeon accused Salmond of feeding on false conspiracy theories and said Salmond is angry because she refused to “collude with him” to make the allegations disappear magically.
First Minister Sturgeon went on trial for two separate inquiries: breaching the ministerial code and Scottish government’s handling of the initial complaints against Alex Salmond.
Sturgeon was cleared of breaching the ministerial code, but the committee of MSPs’ report said the Scottish government’s actions had been “seriously flawed”.
The committee of MSPs found Sturgeon misleading their inquiry during her marathon evidence session in early March.
The committee also said that the government had badly let down the female civil servants who had made the complaints.
The clash between the two leaders could threaten the SNP’s future and hopes of winning a majority in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections.
The SNP had formerly said that if the party wins a majority in the Scottish Parliament in May, it will pass legislation allowing for a new referendum once the coronavirus pandemic was over, and if Johnson’s government refused to agree, the issue would likely end up in the courts.
“If the SNP win the Scottish election in a few months’ time on a proposition of giving the people that choice, then what democrat could rightly stand in the way of that? Boris Johnson just clearly fears the verdict and the will of the Scottish people,” Nicola Sturgeon had told the BBC.