Sturgeon – 1986-2010
1986: Just 17 years old and wet behind the ears a youthful Nicola Sturgeon joined the SNP and soon got stuck into political arguments with politicians many years her senior and electioneering with gusto.
Her speedy acceptance as a budding politician of note was quite remarkable given her attention was also taken up with studies for a law degree at Glasgow University at Glasgow University and her early days in employment as a trainee solicitor at Drumchapel Law Centre.
1992 Her problem politically was that she was universally disliked by many of her political colleagues and the public who viewed her as an aggressive hard-line humourless harpy with an unhealthy preference for trouser suits.
But at the time she emerged there was a dearth of young talented Scottish nationalists and she able to apply for and was elected onto the SNP National Executive and unsuccessfully (gained less than 20% of the votes) stood as a candidate for the Shettleston seat in the Scottish parliamentary elections.
1997: She stood as a candidate for the Westminster seat of Glasgow Govan and lost and it wasn’t until 1999 when she finally gained a seat in the Scottish parliament as an unelected list MSP.
2004: John Swinney resigned. Sturgeon was convinced she would succeed him as party leader but her ambitions were apparently dealt a severe blow when in an audacious change of mind Alex Salmond, took the job despite earlier insisting: ‘If nominated, I would decline; if drafted, I will defer and, if elected, I will resign.”
But Alex taking the leadership had only ever been Plan B. It was previously agreed he would take on the role of mentor to the new leader Sturgeon. But he was forced to throw his hat into the ring when it became obvious that she was losing, badly, to Perth MSP Roseanna Cunningham.
Enhancing her prospects Sturgeon abandoned her bid to lead the party and instead submitted her application for the Deputy leader’s job only a few hours before nominations closed, tricking Roseanna Cunningham, who was denied time to muster sufficient support, out of the deputy leader post.
Roseanna, who had enjoyed the company of Sturgeon on many nights out dining at Glasgow restaurant’s was appalled at Sturgeon’s treachery and with her political career effectively blunted she never forgave her. Friendship’s do not survive such betrayal.
With Alex away at Westminster Sturgeon took charge of the party at Holyrood and did well. In an interview with the BBC when asked about her image change she said: “When you’re younger, you take yourself far too seriously – particularly being a young woman in politics, where you feel a pressure to be taken seriously. If I were honest, I was probably a bit po-faced”.
Her new found persona confirmed she had dramatically reversed her opinion of Margaret Thatcher since her demeanour was now much more in common with the late Iron Lady than she would admit to.
Previously Sturgeon said : “it wasn’t fair, where a man would be judged ‘robust’, she was damned as “nippie”. He might be “articulate”, she would be “strident”.
2007: It was 13 years after she entered politics before she was elected to the Scottish parliamentary seat of Glasgow Southside and her success would be attributed to the leadership of Alex Salmond whose electioneering skills and campaigning took the SNP into power in Scotland for the first time ever.
The election also introduced a “new” Sturgeon who together with other colleagues had been equipped with effective public presentation skills after media consultants had conducted polls and identified their public weaknesses, which had to be overcome if the 2007 election was to be won. Formally “nippie sweetie” Sturgeon engaged with the public as a smiling, mild mannered and at times flirty young woman. She was transformed.
2010: Towards the end of 2003 the press revealed Sturgeon was in a relationship with Peter Murrell, Chief Executive of the SNP. After nearly seven years together they married in July 2010.
While some within the Party were content with the new but unusual arrangement there were many whose views were much more cynical observing:
“She part-controls the political side of things and he completely controls the organisational side of things. It’s a pretty powerful axis to be sat around one breakfast table.” It was her insistence on the continuance of the “special arrangement” when she became party leader that brought about the rift between herself and Alex who advised against it.