Sturgeon: Workaholic driving Scotland's independence campaign

16th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Her bob haircut and political style have invited comparisons with Angela Merkel, and Nicola Sturgeon, the brains behind Scotland's independence campaign, is hoping that she also shares the German chancellor's flair for winning elections.

The Deputy First Minister has often talked about how she became politicised in her youth by witnessing Scotland's post-industrial decline during the "dark days of the Thatcher era".

"Scotland overwhelmingly rejected Margaret Thatcher yet we had a Tory Government doing a lot of social and industrial damage to the country," she said at her Scottish National Party (SNP) conference this year.

"There is a subversion of democracy in that which I don't think is acceptable."

Sturgeon has been highly visible on the campaign alongside SNP leader Alex Salmond and oversaw preparations for the Scottish government's White Paper on independence, the blueprint for separation from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Born in the west Scotland town of Irvine on July 19, 1970, Sturgeon joined the SNP aged 16 and was soon appointed a coordinator for youth affairs and party publicity.

Inspired by her encounters with the nationalist movement, she even managed to convince her parents of its merits and her mother later joined the ranks of the SNP as an elected official in North Ayrshire.

Sturgeon became a prominent member of the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association while studying law, and worked as a lawyer in the city before committing full time to politics.

During April's SNP conference, its last before Thursday's referendum, she told AFP that a vote for independence would lead to a "richer, fairer" Scotland.

"We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world so there is no doubt that we can be independent," she said.

"We will be a fairer country, a wealthier country and a more confident country."

- Two-time politician of the year -

Now minister of health and wellbeing, as well as deputy first minister and vice-president of the SNP, Sturgeon's political life became all-consuming when she married SNP chief executive Peter Murrell in 2010, and they form one of the most powerful couples in Holyrood, the Scottish parliament.

The 44-year-old's career has been an example in perseverance.

In elections to the Scottish parliament in 1999 and 2003 her party finished behind Labour but under electoral rules she still ended up becoming a local lawmaker for Glasgow.

She eventually secured outright victory in 2007 and served as member for Glasgow Govan.

She still lives in the city, and wakes at 5:00 am each morning to make the journey to Edinburgh with her husband.

Recognised as competent and hard-working, she won the "Scottish Politician of the Year" award in 2008 and 2012.

She revealed her national ambitions in June 2004 when she announced her intention to run for the party leadership, against the outgoing vice president Roseanna Cunningham, following a poor performance in European Parliament elections.

She later withdrew her bid after Salmond declared his intentions to run, and threw her weight behind his campaign.

Displaying a strong sense of humour, Sturgeon has joked to the Scottish press that she has no time for cooking, going to the theatre, cinema or concerts. Her idea of paradise, she said, was a good book and a glass of wine.

More left-wing than Salmond, Sturgeon has had the difficult task of winning over Scottish women, a key demographic who have proved most resistant to independence rhetoric.

"The SNP in past elections has seen gender gaps similar to the ones we are seeing in the referendum polls now, and we have managed to close those gaps by making a compelling case for change and for positive change and that is what we intend to do," she told AFP in an interview.

Anti-independence feelings remain strong among women, but the gap is closing, according to recent polls.

Sure of her talent, and well-placed to succeed Salmond one day, Sturgeon on Sunday called upon her compatriots to "believe in themselves and in Scotland", and to tick "Yes".

© 2014 AFP

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