Nicola Sturgeon

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The Right Honourable
Nicola Sturgeon
Official portrait of Nicola Sturgeon.jpg
First Minister of Scotland
Assumed office
20 November 2014
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy John Swinney
Preceded by Alex Salmond
Leader of the Scottish National Party
Assumed office
14 November 2014
Deputy Stewart Hosie
Angus Robertson
Preceded by Alex Salmond
Deputy First Minister of Scotland
In office
17 May 2007 – 19 November 2014
First Minister Alex Salmond
Preceded by Nicol Stephen
Succeeded by John Swinney
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities
In office
5 September 2012 – 19 November 2014
First Minister Alex Salmond
Preceded by Alex Neil
Succeeded by Keith Brown
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing
In office
17 May 2007 – 5 September 2012
First Minister Alex Salmond
Preceded by Andy Kerr
Succeeded by Alex Neil
Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party
In office
3 September 2004 – 14 November 2014
Leader Alex Salmond
Preceded by Roseanna Cunningham
Succeeded by Stewart Hosie
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Glasgow Southside
Assumed office
6 May 2011
Preceded by Constituency established
Majority 9,593 (38.5%)
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Glasgow Govan
In office
3 May 2007 – 5 May 2011
Preceded by Gordon Jackson
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Glasgow
In office
6 May 1999 – 3 May 2007
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Bob Doris
Personal details
Born Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon
(1970-07-19) 19 July 1970 (age 47)
Irvine, North Ayrshire, Scotland
Political party Scottish National Party
Spouse(s) Peter Murrell (m. 2010)
Residence Bute House
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Profession Solicitor
Website First Minister of Scotland

Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon (born 19 July 1970) is the current First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), in office since November 2014. She is the first woman to hold either position. Sturgeon has been a member of the Scottish Parliament since 1999, first as an additional member for the Glasgow electoral region from 1999 to 2007, and as the member for Glasgow Southside since 2007 (known as Glasgow Govan from 2007 to 2011).

A law graduate of the University of Glasgow, Sturgeon worked as a solicitor in Glasgow. After being elected to the Scottish Parliament, she served successively as the SNP's shadow minister for education, health and justice. In 2004 she announced that she would stand as a candidate for the leadership of the SNP following the resignation of John Swinney. However, she later withdrew from the contest in favour of Alex Salmond, standing instead as depute (deputy) leader on a joint ticket with Salmond.

Both were subsequently elected, and as Salmond was still an MP in the House of Commons, Sturgeon led the SNP in the Scottish Parliament from 2004 to 2007. The SNP won the highest number of seats in the Scottish Parliament in the 2007 election and Salmond was subsequently appointed First Minister. He appointed Sturgeon as Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing. She was appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities in 2012.

Following the defeat of the "Yes" campaign in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Salmond announced that he would be resigning as party leader at the SNP party conference that November, and would resign as First Minister after a new leader was chosen.[1] No one else was nominated for the post by the time nominations closed, leaving Sturgeon to take the party leadership unopposed at the SNP's annual conference. She was formally elected to succeed Salmond as First Minister on 19 November.[2]

Forbes magazine ranked Sturgeon as the 50th most powerful woman in the world in 2016 and 2nd in the United Kingdom.[3][4] In 2015, BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour assessed Sturgeon to be the most powerful and influential woman in the United Kingdom.[5]

Early life and education

Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon[6] was born in Ayrshire Central Hospital in Irvine, on 19 July 1970. She is the eldest of three daughters born to Robin Sturgeon (born 1948), an electrician, and Joan Kerr Sturgeon (née Ferguson, born 1952), a dental nurse.[7] Her family has some roots in North East England; her paternal grandmother was from Ryhope in what is now the City of Sunderland.[8]

Sturgeon grew up in Prestwick and Dreghorn. She attended Dreghorn Primary School from 1975 to 1982 and Greenwood Academy from 1982 to 1988. She later studied at the University of Glasgow, where she read Law. Sturgeon graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) in 1992 and a Diploma in Legal Practice the following year.[9] During her time at Glasgow University she was active as a member of the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association and the students' representative council.

Following her graduation, Sturgeon completed her legal traineeship at McClure Naismith, a Glasgow firm of solicitors, in 1995. After qualifying as a solicitor, she worked for Bell & Craig, a firm of solicitors in Stirling, and later at the Drumchapel Law Centre in Glasgow from 1997 until her election to the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Early political career

Sturgeon joined the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 1986, having already become a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and quickly became their Youth Affairs Vice Convener and Publicity Vice Convener.[10][11] She first stood for election in the 1992 general election as the SNP candidate in the Glasgow Shettleston constituency, and was the youngest parliamentary candidate in Scotland, failing to win the seat.

Sturgeon also stood unsuccessfully as the SNP candidate for the Irvine North ward on Cunninghame District Council in May 1992, for the Baillieston/Mount Vernon ward on Strathclyde Regional Council in 1994, and for the Bridgeton ward on Glasgow City Council in 1995.

In the mid-1990s, Sturgeon and Charles Kennedy went together on a political study visit to Australia.[12][13]

The 1997 general election saw Sturgeon selected to fight the Glasgow Govan seat for the SNP. Boundary changes meant that the notional Labour majority in the seat had increased substantially. However, infighting between the two rival candidates for the Labour nomination, Mohammed Sarwar and Mike Watson, along with an energetic local campaign, resulted in Glasgow Govan being the only Scottish seat to see a swing away from Labour in the midst of a Labour landslide nationwide. Sarwar did, however, win the seat with a majority of 2,914 votes.[14] Shortly after this, Sturgeon was appointed as the SNP's spokesperson for energy and education matters.

Sturgeon stood for election to the Scottish Parliament in the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999 as the SNP candidate for Glasgow Govan. Although she failed to win the seat, she was placed first in the SNP's regional list for the Glasgow region, and was thus elected as a Member of the Scottish Parliament. During the first term of the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon served as a member of the Shadow Cabinets of both Alex Salmond and John Swinney. She was Shadow Minister for Children and Education from 1999 to 2000, Shadow Minister for Health and Community Care from 2000 to 2003, and Shadow Minister for Justice from 2003 to 2004. She also served as a member of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee and the Health and Community Care Committee.

Depute Leader and Deputy First Minister

Sturgeon (front right) with Alex Salmond and the rest of the Scottish Government cabinet following election in 2011

On 22 June 2004, John Swinney resigned as Leader of the SNP following poor results in the European Parliament election. His then-depute, Roseanna Cunningham, immediately announced her intention to stand for the leadership. The previous leader, Alex Salmond, announced at the time that he would not stand.[15] On 24 June 2004, Sturgeon announced that she would also be a candidate in the forthcoming election for the leadership, with Kenny MacAskill as her running mate.[16]

However, Salmond later announced that he did intend to stand for the leadership; Sturgeon subsequently withdrew from the contest and declared her support for Salmond, standing instead as his running mate for the depute leadership. It was reported that Salmond had privately supported Sturgeon in her leadership bid, but decided to run for the position himself as it became apparent she was unlikely to beat Cunningham.[17] The majority of the SNP hierarchy lent their support to the Salmond-Sturgeon bid for the leadership, although MSP Alex Neil backed Salmond as leader, but refused to endorse Sturgeon as depute.[18]

The results of the leadership contest were announced on 3 September 2004, with Salmond and Sturgeon elected as Leader and Depute Leader respectively. As Salmond was still an MP in the House of Commons, Sturgeon led the SNP at the Scottish Parliament until the 2007 election, when Salmond was elected as an MSP.[19]

As leader of the SNP in the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon became a high-profile figure in Scottish politics and often clashed with First Minister Jack McConnell at First Minister's Questions. This included rows over the House of Commons' decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapon system, and the SNP's plans to replace council tax in Scotland with a local income tax.[20] Sturgeon defeated Gordon Jackson with a 4.7% swing to the SNP in the 2007 election in Glasgow Govan. The election resulted in a hung parliament, with the SNP the largest party by a single seat; the SNP subsequently formed a minority government. Sturgeon was appointed as the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing by First Minister Salmond. In the position she saw through party pledges such as scrapping prescription charges and reversing accident and emergency closures, she also became more widely known internationally for her handling of the 2009 flu pandemic.[21][22] She was supported in her role as Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing by Shona Robison MSP, the Minister for Public Health and Sport, and by Alex Neil MSP, the Minister for Housing and Communities.

At the 2011 election, the SNP won a landslide victory and achieved a large overall majority. Sturgeon was retained as Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing until a reshuffle one year later, when she was appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities and an additional role overseeing the referendum on Scottish independence, essentially putting her in charge of the SNP's referendum campaign.[23] In December 2012, Sturgeon said that she believed that independence would allow Scotland to build a stronger and more competitive country, and would change spending priorities to address "the scandal of soaring poverty in a country as rich as Scotland".[24]

On 19 September 2014, independence was rejected in the Scottish independence referendum, with 55.3% of the voters voting no and 44.7% voting yes.[25] Following the defeat of the Yes Scotland campaign, Salmond announced his resignation as First Minister and Leader of the SNP. Sturgeon immediately announced that she would be a candidate in the election to replace him, and received huge support from the SNP hierarchy.[26][27][28] Sturgeon said that there would be "no greater privilege" than to lead the SNP. On Salmond's resignation, Sturgeon said:

The personal debt of gratitude I owe Alex is immeasurable. He has been my friend, mentor and colleague for more than 20 years. Quite simply, I would not have been able to do what I have in politics without his constant advice, guidance and support through all these years. [...] I can think of no greater privilege than to seek to lead the party I joined when I was just 16. However, that decision is not for today.

Sturgeon (top right) seated with the 2007–2011 Scottish Cabinet following the SNP victory in the 2007 election

Following the referendum defeat, Sturgeon said that "further devolution is the route to independence".[29] She also opined that Scottish independence was a matter of "when, not if".[30]

Leadership of the Scottish National Party

On 24 September 2014, Sturgeon officially launched her campaign bid to succeed Salmond as Leader of the Scottish National Party at the November leadership election.[31][32] It quickly became apparent that no other candidate would be able to receive enough required nominations to run a credible leadership campaign.[33] During the speech launching her campaign, Sturgeon announced that she would resign as Depute Leader, triggering a concurrent depute leadership election; the MSPs Angela Constance and Keith Brown and the MP Stewart Hosie all nominated themselves to succeed Sturgeon as Depute Leader.[34][35]

Nominations for the SNP leadership closed on 15 October, with Sturgeon confirmed as the only candidate.[36] On this date, Sturgeon also came out on top in a trust rating opinion poll, conducted for the SNP, which indicated that 54% of the Scottish population trusted her to "stand up for Scotland's interests".[37] After being confirmed as the only candidate, Sturgeon launched a tour of Scotland, visiting SNP members in different cities outlining her vision for Scotland.[38]

Sturgeon was formally acclaimed as the first female Leader of the SNP on 14 November 2014 at the Autumn Conference in Perth, with Hosie as her depute. This also effectively made her First Minister in waiting, given the SNP's absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament.[39] In her first speech as leader, Sturgeon said that it was "the privilege of her life" to lead the party she joined as a teenager.[40]

First Minister of Scotland

First term, 2014–2016

Sturgeon's first term portrait as First Minister of Scotland
US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Nicola Sturgeon at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on 10 June 2015

On 19 November 2014, Salmond formally resigned as First Minister of Scotland and the election for the new First Minister took place the following day. Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, stood for election. Sturgeon received 66 votes, Davidson received 15 and there were 39 abstentions.[41] Sturgeon was formally sworn into office the following day.[42] On 20 November 2014, she was appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and therefore granted the title, 'The Right Honourable'.[43] On 21 November, she unveiled her Cabinet with a 50/50 gender balance, promoting Finance Secretary John Swinney to become her Deputy First Minister.[44]

UK 2015 general election

Sturgeon took part in several Scottish and UK-wide TV election debates in the run up to the 2015 general election and according to opinion polls was regarded to have had a successful performance.[45] The SNP went on to win a landslide victory in Scotland, winning 56 out of 59 seats.[46]

On 4 April 2015, a leaked memo from the Scotland Office alleged that Sturgeon privately told the French ambassador Sylvie Bermann that she would "rather see David Cameron remain as PM". This was in contrast to her publicly stated opposition to a Conservative Government on the run up to the election.[47] The memo was quickly denied by both Sturgeon and the French consulate.[48][49] It was later noted that the memo had contained a disclaimer that parts of the conversation may have been "lost in translation" and its release had been ordered by then Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael.[50][51] Sturgeon stated that Carmichael had "engaged in dirty tricks" and that he should consider his position as an MP.[52]

Scottish Parliament election, 2016

Sturgeon contested her first election as SNP leader at the 2016 election. The SNP fell two seats short of securing another overall majority. Nonetheless, with 63 seats, the SNP was still by far the largest party in the chamber.[53][54]

Sturgeon was formally nominated for a second term on 17 May, defeating Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie by a vote of 63 to 5, with 59 members abstaining.[55]

Second term, 2016–

2016 EU membership referendum

Sturgeon meets diplomats from 27 European Union countries at Bute House to address the rights and conditions of EU nationals resident in Scotland following the EU referendum result

The UK Government held a referendum to decide the future of the United Kingdom's European Union membership in which all 32 council areas in Scotland voted by a majority for the United Kingdom to remain a member of the EU. Across Scotland, 62% of voters backed the UK remaining a member of the EU, with 38% voting for the UK to leave. Overall 52% of voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, with 48% voting to remain.[56]

In response to the result, on 24 June 2016, Sturgeon said that Scottish Government officials would begin planning for a second independence referendum.[57][58] Sturgeon claimed that it was "clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union" and that Scotland had "spoken decisively" with a "strong, unequivocal" vote to remain in the European Union.[59] Sturgeon said it was "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland could be taken out of the EU "against its will".[60]

On 24 June, Sturgeon said she would communicate to all EU member states that Scotland had voted to stay in the EU.[61] An emergency Scottish cabinet meeting on 25 June agreed that the Scottish Government would seek to enter negotiations with the EU and its member states, to explore options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU."[62][63] Sturgeon later said that while she believed in Scottish independence, her starting point in these discussions was to protect Scotland's relationship with the EU.[64] May's comments confirmed that the PM wanted the Scottish government to be "fully engaged" in the process.

Sturgeon was planning to meet with EU leaders in Brussels to discuss Scotland remaining in the EU. However, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said that such discussions would be "not appropriate" considering the "situation in the UK".[65] Nonetheless, she was able to arrange for a meeting on 29 June with European Parliament President Martin Schulz and others.[66] Afterwards, Sturgeon said the reception had been "sympathetic", but she conceded that she did not underestimate the challenges.[67]

Sturgeon welcomes British Prime Minister Theresa May to Bute House, 2016

Sturgeon met with new UK Prime Minister Theresa May in Edinburgh on 15 July 2016 after the latter had made it clear that UK unity was a high priority.[68] Afterwards, Sturgeon said that "It would be inconceivable for any prime minister to seek to stand in the way of a referendum if that is what the Scottish Parliament voted for ... if there's a clear sense that that's what people in Scotland want, would be completely the wrong thing to do." She added a conciliatory note, however in her assessment of May: "She's a woman who has a fairly businesslike way of doing things, which I have too. So I think we can find a way of working together, notwithstanding those disagreements."[69]

Future referendum on independence

Sturgeon confirmed in June 2016 that the Scottish government has formally agreed to draft legislation to allow a second independence referendum to take place.[70] As the constitution is a 'reserved' matter under the Scotland Act 1998, for a future referendum on Scottish independence to be binding under UK law, it would need to receive the consent of the British Parliament to take place.[71]

On 28 June 2016 Sturgeon made it clear that her motion to begin discussions with the EU (for Scotland to remain in the European Union) did not constitute a proposal for a second referendum on independence.[72] However, her statements indicated that she had parliamentary authority to explore "options" for keeping Scotland in the EU, "including independence".[65] By 13 October 2016, she announced the first formal step towards launching a new referendum, called the "Independence Referendum Bill".[73]

Prior to the day the Prime Minister triggered Article 50, formally allowing the process of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, the Scottish Parliament voted 69 to 59 in favour of another independence referendum,[74] formally giving Sturgeon the legal mandate to write to Theresa May to allow another referendum to take place. By the end of that week, on March 30, 2017, Sturgeon wrote to the Prime Minister requesting a Section 30 order, formally devolving the responsibility and power to the Scottish Government to plan for and hold another referendum on Scottish Independence.[75] Previously, May and David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland, have both highlighted that as the negotiations begin with the European Union on the United Kingdom's withdraw, it is important for Scotland to work with the UK Government to get the best exit deal for both the United Kingdom and Scotland, stating that "now is not the time for another referendum".[76]

European Union membership

Sturgeon meets with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission in 2016 to discuss Brexit

Following the 2016 UK referendum on the exiting the European Union, Sturgeon has called for Scotland's place in the European single market to be protected.[77] In response to the UK-wide vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the Scottish Government, headed by Sturgeon, launched the Scotland's Place in Europe document, a white paper setting out the Scottish Government's aims and wishes of Scotland's role in Europe post-Brexit. The paper was sent to the central British Government to be read by Prime Minister Theresa May. Scotland's Place in Europe was the first post-Brexit strategy by any government in the British isles, including the central UK Government who pushed ahead to hold the vote in June 2016.[78]

The document, published in December 2016, seeks for Scotland to remain a member of the European Single Market to allow the Economy of Scotland to benefit from free trade deals across the remaining 27 European Union nations. Furthermore, it seeks that remaining within the European Single Market would be beneficial for trade across the entire United Kingdom, whereby it benefits the economies of both Scotland and the United Kingdom as well as benefiting the wider economy and trade of the European Union.[79] Within Scotland's Place in Europe, the Scottish Government highlights that there are several ways that Scotland could retain its membership of the European Single Market, but most notably by becoming an independent sovereign country within the EU which is the preferred option of Sturgeon and the wider SNP led-Scottish Government.[80] Other than trade and single market membership, Sturgeon advocates the importance of the rights of EU nationals currently working and residing within Scotland and that there rights and liberties are protected post-Brexit.[80] As immigration and border controls remain a reserved matter,[81] Sturgeon has called on strong working with Prime Minister Theresa May and the UK Government to ensure this is achieved. Other issues set in the document include protection over laws and legislation which affects Scotland, protection of worker's rights and entitlements, a review of the devolution settlement in Scotland that will be affected by Brexit such as farming and fishery industries and additional powers granted to Scotland to protect and promote Scottish interests.[80]

Recently, Sturgeon has advocated for a second independence referendum to be held at the end of the Brexit process which is expected around 2019, claiming that there is "too much at stake for Scotland for the Brexit process to be imposed[82]". A week prior to the Brexit negotiations beginning between the UK Government, 27 EU member state governments and the European Commission, Sturgeon called on Prime Minister Theresa May to "pause" Brexit negotiations to allow for the creation of a four way government approach to Brexit involving the Northern Ireland Executive, Welsh Government, UK Government and Scottish Government.[83]

In June 2017, Sturgeon criticised the approaches taken by both Theresa May and the British Government towards the Brexit approach, claiming that May "will struggle" as she is a "difficult person to build a rapport with". In the same interview, Sturgeon committed to no independence referendum being held prior to the terms of a UK wide Brexit deal being agreed and presented.[84]

Along with First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, Sturgeon criticised in a statement the Brexit repeal bill to convert EU law into British law as a "power grab", because the bill "does not return powers from the EU to the devolved administrations, as promised" but "returns them solely to the UK government and parliament, and imposes new restrictions on the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales".[85] These fears were reiterated in September,when the Scottsh devolved governlent recommened its Parliament to withhold its consent for the bill. Scotland and Wales are expected to propose amendments to the bill.[86]

With a view towards Brexit, Sturgeon demanded greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, arguing that Brexit is threatening Scotland's devolution settlement.[87] With London seeking to restrict immigration to the United Kingdom, she asserted that Scotland should be able to set its own immigration policy, as well as policies relating to employment and trade.[87]

Scottish local elections, 2017

Sturgeon and the SNP went into the Scottish council elections that were held on 4 May 2017, as the largest political party in the 32 local council areas in Scotland, having 424 councillors elected to serve on the councils across Scotland.[88] Opinion polling for the council elections conducted in early 2017 suggested that the SNP looked set to repeat this level of success, with 47% of the public claiming they will be voting for SNP candidates on election day.[89] Publicly speaking about the 2017 Scottish council elections, Sturgeon has said that the elections were a clear choice between voting for herself and Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, citing the stark fall in support of the Scottish Labour Party and their leader Kezia Dugdale over the past several years.[90]

Whilst failing to win any outright overall control in any council area in Scotland, the SNP emerged as the largest political group in sixteen councils, including Glasgow City Council, knocking the Scottish Labour Party out of power in Glasgow for the first time since 1980.[91] The SNP increased their number of councillors elected in 2017 than it did in 2012, with 431 being elected, compared to 425 in the 2012 local elections.[92] The SNP became the largest political party in council areas such as Falkirk, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.[93] Following the results, Sturgeon claimed that the election was a "clear and emphatic victory for the SNP', despite the large number of seats gained by the Scottish Conservatives.[94]

International relations

Sturgeon meets with Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong during a trade visit, 2015

Whilst foreign policy remains a reserved matter,[81] the Scottish Government still has the power and ability to strengthen and develop Scotland, the economy and Scottish interests on the world stage and encourage foreign businesses, international devolved, regional and central governments to invest in Scotland.[95] Sturgeon has undertaken a number of visits to Europe, North America and Asia to promote Scotland as a place of investment and Scottish businesses and partners to trade and do business with.[96][97][98] Sturgeon has committed to strengthening links between Scotland and the African continent, stating that Scotland has a long-standing reputation on the world stage as being a key partner with African countries where it has funded and developed a number of projects.[99]

Since becoming First Minister in 2014, Sturgeon has visited the United States (and states including California and New York). During the 2017 visit to the United States, Sturgeon met with Jerry Brown, Governor of California where both Brown and Sturgeon signed an agreement which commits both the Government of California and Scottish Government to work together to tackle climate change.[100] Other engagements included meeting CEO of Apple Inc. Tim Cook[101] and signing a £6.3 million deal for Scottish investment from American businesses and firms which promotes aspects of Scotland such as trade, tourism and innovation.[102]

Sturgeon has sought to continue the strong connections and bond between Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. During an official visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2016, speaking in Dublin, Sturgeon claimed that is it "important for Ireland and Scotland and the whole of the British Isles that Ireland has a strong ally in Scotland".[103] During the same engagement, Sturgeon became the first head of government to address the Seanad Éireann, the Upper House of the Irish Parliament.[103] Sturgeon used her speech to the house to highlights the troubles ahead for both the Irish and Scottish Governments posed by the Brexit vote, but vowed to "bring benefits" to the British Isles and to "make new work" for both Ireland and Scotland.[103]

In August 2016, Sturgeon travelled to Germany to meet with the German Government to discuss the results of the European Union referendum in which the United Kingdom voted to leave as well as discussing the next steps open to the European Union, the United Kingdom and Scotland.[104] Sturgeon met with Michael Roth, Germany's Minister of State for Europe during the visit, highlighting to the German Government that Scotland as a whole voted to remain within the European Union despite the nationwide UK vote being to leave", with Roth highlighting that the talks were "very productive" and hoped that the "UK would find a way" that will benefit Europe and Scotland in the end.[104] In response to the Brexit vote and with the intention to protect Scotland's interests and democratic vote to remain within the European Union, Sturgeon has travelled to Brussels to meet with both Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission as well as Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament. At the engagement in June 2016, Sturgeon highlighted the concerns raised in Scotland by the Brexit vote and claimed that Scotland's desire to remain within the European Union was met with "sympathy" from Europe.[105]

Sturgeon spoke at the United Nations in New York City about gender equality and human rights, claiming that she is "determined" to use her powers as First Minister of Scotland to "make things better" and "improve opportunities" for women. Sturgeon also highlighted that Scotland is determined to "play our part in co-operation with others, to help to achieve peace and security".[106]

Catalonian independence referendum, 2017

In the run up to the Catalan independence referendum, 2017, Nicola Sturgeon offered her own personal backing and that of the Scottish Government to Catalonia in the holding of a democratic and fair independence referendum, stating that "self determination was an important principle"[107]. The Government of Spain has criticised Sturgeon for her comments and intervention to the independence movement in Catalonia, claiming that Sturgeon had "totally misunderstood" the situation in Spain and Catalonia[108]. In response to the mass police attacks and violence against Catalans on polling day, Sturgeon expressed her personal concern over the situation in Catalonia and the response shown by the Spanish Government and the Spanish police, claiming that all should condemn the violence taking place "regardless of their views on independence" and that the central Spanish Government in Madrid should allow the polling to take place before "someone gets hurt" as a result of violence.[109]

United States

In the run up to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, then President of the United States Barack Obama offered his support to the Better Together side, claiming that the United Kingdom was better united with Scotland remaining within the United Kingdom. There was much speculation that Obamas last minute intervention in the referendum debate and offering his support to a "strong, robust and united" United Kingdom was due to concerns in Washington D.C that ones of the United States closest allies could separate and weaken the relation between the United States and the United Kingdom[110]. Sturgeon was highly critical of Barack Obamas intervention in the debate, claiming that his intervention "helped" boost the number of votes Yes Scotland received. Sturgeon claimed she was not "sore" about the intervention shown by Barack Obama, but his claim about a strong United Kingdom had a "strange" impact on Scots[111].

Sturgeon had been highly critical of Donald Trump during the United States presidential election, 2016 and had publicly backed his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton[112]. Sturgeon had been highly critical of Donald Trump and his policies, highlighting her disapproval of his language and views relating to sexism and misogyny, and stating upon Trump's victory that she hopes "Trump turns out to be a president different to the one he was during his campaign and reaches out to those who felt vilified by his campaign"[113]. Upon Trump's victory during the Presidential election, Sturgeon and Trump spoke on the phone to discuss the future relationship and diplomatic approaches between both the United States and Scotland with Sturgeon offering her well wishes to Trump following his success. Sturgeon highlighted that "Scotland and the United States will continue to cooperate in those areas where we share common interests and goals, and when appropriate we will also look to have constructive dialogue on issues where our views differ"[114].

Sturgeon had also previously stripped Donald Trump of his ambassadorial role for Scottish businesses with the Scottish Government in the aftermath of Trumps views of an outright ban of Muslims from entering the United States. Sturgeon claimed following comments made by Trump in relation to Muslims entering the United States that he was "not fit" for the ambassadorial role with the Scottish Government[115].


Spain and it's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had always been highly critical and against the idea of an independent Scotland, with Rajoy always claiming that Scotland would be "outside" of the European Union should it have voted for independence from the United Kingdom[116]. Whilst the Scottish Government and Sturgeon had argued that due to being a current member of the European Union as part of the United Kingdom that Scotland would be granted automatic entry as it jointed the European Union as part of the United Kingdom in 1973[117]. However, Spain had always doubted that theory and viewpoint of the Scottish Government, claiming that Scotland would be waiting a number of years to gain entry to the European Union[118].

In the aftermath of the United Kingdom's decision to withdraw its membership of the European Union, Prime Minister Rajoy once again was critical of the views taken by the Scottish Government when he rejected calls from Sturgeon for Scotland to remain within the European Single Market. The Spanish Secretary of State to the European Union, Jorge Toledo, claimed that "if the United Kingdom leaves the single market then the whole United Kingdom leaves the single market" going onto claim further that there is only "one negotiator that is the UK Government[119]". Mariano Rajoy told the meeting of the European Council that he was block any independent and separate deal put forward by Sturgeon and the Scottish Government[120].

Sturgeon has been highly critical of the Spanish Governments actions and the way it has dealt with the affairs relating to the Catalan independence referendum held in October 2017, highlighting to Mariano Rajoy that instead he should follow "the shining example" that was created as part of the Edinburgh Agreement between the Scottish and British Governments that allowed Scotland to hold a legally binding referendum[121].

Political views

Sturgeon has campaigned against replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system.[122] She has been a critic of austerity, saying that the UK government's "austerity economics" is "morally unjustifiable and economically unsustainable".[123]

Sturgeon is noted for campaigning for women's rights and gender equality, and is a self-described feminist; she has argued that Scotland's feminist movement is not simply symbolic, but "sends a powerful signal about equality".[124] She has hailed Scottish feminist economist Ailsa McKay as one of her inspirations.[125]

Awards and acknowledgements

Sturgeon won the Scottish Politician of the Year Award in 2008, 2012 and 2014. In 2004, 2008 and 2011 she also won the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year Award at the same event, which is organized by The Herald newspaper.

In February 2013, BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour assessed Sturgeon as being the 20th most powerful woman in the United Kingdom.[126] She rose to be listed as the most powerful and influential in July 2015.[5]

Personal life

Sturgeon lives in Glasgow with her husband, Peter Murrell, who is the current chief executive of the SNP. The couple have been in a relationship since 2003. They announced their engagement on 29 January 2010,[127] and were married on 16 July 2010 at Òran Mór in Glasgow.[128] Her mother Joan was the SNP Provost of North Ayrshire council, where she was councillor for the Irvine East ward since 2007 until 2016.[129]

Sturgeon is a fan of the Danish political drama Borgen, which she has described as "a drama but with an authentic twist. As a politician I can relate to it."[130]

Sturgeon is a fan of Scottish Championship football club Ayr United F.C.[131]

Sturgeon does not have children. In 2016 she disclosed that she had a miscarriage in 2011.[132]

In an interview with BBC's Women's Hour, Sturgeon revealed that it was Margaret Thatcher that inspired her to enter politics, because, due to rising unemployment in Scotland at the time, she developed "a strong feeling that it was wrong for Scotland to be governed by a Tory government that we hadn't elected".[133]

See also


  1. ^ Libby Brooks (19 September 2014). "Alex Salmond's resignation could give Nicola Sturgeon her day of destiny". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Campbell, Glenn (13 November 2014). "The transition from Alex Salmond to Nicola Sturgeon". BBC News. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
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External links

  • SNP profile
  • Scottish Parliament profile
  • Jon Stewart's 2015 interview of Sturgeon on the Daily Show
Scottish Parliament
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Constituency created
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Glasgow

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Bob Doris
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Gordon Jackson
Member of the Scottish Parliament
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Constituency created
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Roseanna Cunningham
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Stewart Hosie
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Alex Salmond
Leader of the Scottish National Party
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Nicol Stephen
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John Swinney
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Andy Kerr
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing
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Alex Neil
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