Journalist Yvonne Ridley says Nicola Sturgeon has earned the trust of Scottish voters but when it comes to indyref 2 patience will be limited
NICOLA STURGEON swept on to the stage at the annual SNP gathering in Aberdeen and spoke with the passion of a red-clad Celtic Pasionaria.
She oozed confidence as she put on one of her now trademark performances, the likes of which have already earned her the grudging respect of the majority of the London-based media.
She is without doubt the most polished political leader in the UK today and when she talks she can lift the most morose to their feet. Even canny sections of ardent No voters are thinking about lending her their support in the forthcoming Holyrood elections.
When it comes to the rule book open the window now because there’s nothing predictable about the SNP or Sturgeon as they perform political acrobatics, the likes of which are rarely attempted.
This week she asked the Scottish electorate to put their trust in her and the SNP. Despite all the confidence and bravado it is still a big ask – third term governments are never usually that popular and in the past have been destined to lose power as they and the voters become jaded and uninspired by the end of it all.
But when it comes to the rule book open the window now because there’s nothing predictable about the SNP or Sturgeon as they perform political acrobatics, the likes of which are rarely attempted never mind accomplished.
Quite how she manages to steer Scotland’s ship of state with the grace and dignity required from the leader of a nation while continually goading and insulting the Westminster government with the roguish swagger of a pirate queen is a mystery. But as balancing acts go Sturgeon seemingly achieves the impossible.
Even her biggest detractors are predicting another storming performance at the ballot box when Scotland’s voters go to the polling stations in May next year. Unless something drastically goes wrong, they will do as Sturgeon asks and give her and the other SNP candidates their trust.
Now that the breathless occupants inhabiting the Westminster Bubble have finally caught up with Sturgeon their focus at the conference was locked on laser-style for hints of another independence referendum campaign being planned.
As balancing acts go Sturgeon seemingly achieves the impossible.
As they listened intently for the slightest clue of a date for referendum II, Sturgeon made it clear her government would not go down that route again until or unless “strong and consistent” evidence emerges of a change in public opinion.
They headed back to Westminster, a few unconvinced by Sturgeon’s insistence that a second referendum is not on the cards. Unconvinced because they’ve been duped by their own naivety before – let’s face it, few of them had heard of Sturgeon until Alex Salmond stood down a year ago as first minister.
To the uninitiated London-based media, they’d never heard of her until she became FM whereas most Scots have known of her existence for many years. She’s spent the last three decades fired up and ready to tell the SNP story to anyone who would listen.
Since those early days as a teen radicalised by what she saw as the extreme right-wing politics of Margaret Thatcher, Sturgeon has been passionate about the SNP. She’s worked on political campaigns for others and then for herself and finally became a member of the Scottish Government.
She was ready to take the next step to SNP leader but graciously stepped aside to make way for the return of Alex Salmond, instead becoming his deputy in 2004. Now everyone has heard of her thanks to the Daily Mail, which labelled her ‘Britain’s most dangerous woman’.
The key to winning the next referendum will be down to timing and just because she’s not talking about it doesn’t mean Sturgeon is not thinking about it.
All of this goes to prove one thing: Sturgeon didn’t have a meteoric rise, coming from nowhere. The path to FM has been a well worn slog in which she has proved to be a very patient woman who has kept her focus and her eye on the ultimate prize – Scotland’s independence.
Those of us who dare to dream of such things must also learn to be patient like her. Having a date for a second referendum would have provided a boost for many of the party faithful in Aberdeen and there were those who were disappointed it didn’t even merit a full-blown debate.
But we must give Sturgeon our trust and, more importantly, our patience. The key to winning the next referendum will be down to timing and just because she’s not talking about it doesn’t mean Sturgeon is not thinking about it.
However, as Dolores Ibarruri, the original Pasionara, once said: “There is a limit to our patience,” – so don’t leave it too long, Nicola.
Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland