Tam's Tall Tales

- Scotland's New First Minister

Nicola Sturgeon - The new First Minister

Sturgeon Takes Over From Salmond

After Scotland said 'No' to independence - well, for the time being - the leadership of the Scottish National Party (SNP) has been transferred to Nicola Sturgeon from Alex Salmond (who is said to be consider the option of seeking election as a Member of the UK Parliament in London where he could, he says he could "hold their feet to the fire". He has previously had a spell in the UK parliament. Nicola, as leader of the largest party in the Edinburgh parliament, is now the First Minister of Scotland.

So, what is Nicola Sturgeon like? I suppose I should declare an interest as having portrayed her in a satirical video as an adolescent Bay City Rollers fan. In fact, she is 44 years of age and although in her earlier days in politics came over as a rather whiney adolescent, she has matured into a cogent and capable politician.

Born in Irvine in Ayrshire, she attended local schools going on to do law at Glasgow University, later becoming a solicitor. However politics entered her life early and she joined the SNP at the age of 16 and first stood for office in the 1992 General Election. This is quite significant, because Ms Sturgeon was at that time supporting a party that looked a lost cause. Changed days, the SNP now has over 90,000 members and is riding high in the opinion polls. But when Nicola, as she is widely known, entered the fray the SNP was not the choice of political wannabes who wanted to climb the greasy poll.

She has been Alex Salmond's deputy since 2004. From 2007 to 2012 she was health Minister in the Edinburgh administration. The graphic here shows her beside Alex Salmond with the rest of the Scottish Cabinet in 2007. She took on another senior position after that, but a lot of her public-facing work was making the case for a 'Yes' vote in the independence referendum. 'No' won, but nobody has blamed Nicola and her party's membership has surged since then. Scottish Labour, traditionally very strong, has taken a big hit in the Scottish opinion polls and looks to be in real trouble and seeking a new leader in Scotland.

All this is rich in political irony. Nicola failed to persuade the people to vote her way but more people than ever support the SNP. One newspaper used the line 'the loser takes it all' - an inversion of the Abba song.

Possibly the disconnect between referendum result and SNP' s purple patch is explained by the fact that the SNP administration has done some very popular things, such as abolishing charges for medicines. The tolls on the major bridges were scrapped. Labour seemed to pander to the suppliers of services, the teachers' union and so on, whereas the SNP administration went for populist policies - a tactic that has been successful.

Nicola Sturgeon has won her political spurs. The job of health supremo in Scotland is a bruising gone, but she emerged unscathed and with a reputation for hard work and the ability to grasp key issues - 'mastering the brief.'

She married another SNP activist in 2010 but there is no sign of a family. Little is known of her outside interests other than a keen interest in reading and 'Borgen' - the Danish TV series about a well-meaning leftish female politician. Politics is her thing.

She comes over as being a pleasant individual and no skeletons have emerged from the cupboard though that will not be for the want of the Press trying. In private she is regarded as having a good sense of humour - "good fun."

I would put her down as a highly committed politician who has ability. She will do well in the current climate, but she, like many of her colleagues have never had to face the really awful political choices. Someone once asked a veteran politician what might lead to the end of his political career, and Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister of the day replied: "Events, dear boy. Events." That phrase has entered the political vocabulary and is profound. Nicola Sturgeon has done well so far but has yet to receive a baptism of fire. But she has made a good start by appointing an equal number of men and women to her new Cabinet.

Although she is now mistress of all she surveys in Scottish politics, there is one nagging doubt.. Will Alex Salmond, described by some as possibly Europe's most able politician, not continue to hog the limelight? He has said that he is not "going away..." His opponents were disappointed at that remark!

Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
May 2014

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