Nicola Sturgeon has said the campaign for Scottish independence could learn from her “show not tell” leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.
The First Minster argued that support for an independent Scotland has grown during lockdown as people have watched the Scottish Government’s decision making with the powers it has.
In an interview with the Scotsman to mark her 50th birthday, Ms Sturgeon said devoting all her attention to dealing with the coronavirus has been “liberating” without the usual focus devoted to party politics.
“I have tried — in a way that I have never had to do with other issues — to strip the traditional rules of politics out of my decision-making,” she said.
“I have not weighed up decisions over coronavirus in terms of: What does this mean for my party? What does it mean for opinion poll ratings? What does it mean for the next election? What does it mean for what the opposition are going to say about me tomorrow or next month? I have tried to do everything with a very straight bat; to listen to the expert advice and apply best judgment.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “I haven’t at any point during the coronavirus weighed up decisions on the basis of: ‘Does this make independence more or less likely?
“But the Yes movement possibly has something to learn about the fact that – as we have stopped shouting about independence, and shouting to ourselves about how we go about getting independence, and just focused on [dealing with the crisis] – it has allowed people to take a step back and say: ‘Well, actually that’s the benefit of autonomous decision-making’ and also ‘perhaps things would be better if we had a bit more autonomous decision-making,’ and to come to their own conclusions.”
Her comments came before the launch of a new party was announced by former SNP MSP Dave Thompson in an attempt to woo pro-independence voters for Holyrood’s regional “list” seats at next year’s election, arguing that votes for the SNP are wasted under the Scottish Parliament’s electoral system.
He tweeted that the new Alliance for Independence party would “ask all small indy parties to stand under our umbrella and unite to achieve Indy”, adding that it would be a “formidable force”.
Ms Sturgeon insisted that she wants the SNP “united” ahead of the 2021 election and said: “History is littered with examples of political parties that start talking to each other as opposed to the public. I don’t think that’s where the SNP is generally.
“I haven’t had the head room to think about it, but now you are making me think about it, there does seem something odd about a political party that is sitting after 13 years in power, with record opinion poll ratings and the biggest ever support for independence, agonising over what’s gone wrong.”
Asked about other pro-independence groups standing against her party, Ms Sturgeon said: “You can take it as read that, come the election, I will be saying to people: ‘Vote SNP with your first vote, and vote SNP with your regional vote as well,’ and I will be pointing to the fact that the one time we did win a majority was when we maximised the constituency and the regional vote.”
During the interview, Ms Sturgeon said she was concerned about the taboo around menopause, adding: “Unlike the whole thing of having kids or not having kids, periods and other aspects of womanhood, I think there is still an inhibition when it comes to the menopause.
“It shouldn’t be as big a mystery to those of us about to go through it, but it is. You read so much about women feeling as if they are losing their mind and you think: ‘God, I am in a really responsible job; how am I going to cope if I get hot flushes in the middle of FMQs?’.”
Responding to the interview, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “No matter how hard she might try, Nicola Sturgeon will always view her politics through a constitutional prism.
“Scottish politics has been paralysed as a result for the last decade to the detriment of the economy, hospitals and schools.
“And her followers are now desperate to make next year’s election a referendum on another referendum.
“The First Minister should rule out another independence referendum and park constitutional division so that we can focus relentlessly on economic recovery, saving jobs in Scotland and protecting the NHS.”