In Conversation with … Nicola Sturgeon
The Stand’s New Town Theatre, v7
15:40 (15 August only)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)
Politics apart, I’ve always had a great admiration for Nicola Sturgeon. This was greatly amplified by an encounter with her last year when I was resting after giving blood and she was doing a tour of the blood donor centre as part of a drive to get more Asian people to donate. The first thing she saw of me was my boots, and so we fell into conversation about them: I mentioned the [considerable] number of pints of blood I had donated so far, and she was very warm in her appreciation. What really impressed me, however, was when, at the end of a considerable amount of p.r. stuff, she caught sight of me snarfing tea and Tunnocks in the cafe area and called out further appreciation of my achievement – her people skills are more than considerable, they are bloody brilliant!
So it was with great delight that I went to her session in the In Conversation With… series at the Stand’s New Town Theatre. Last year I had been extremely impressed with SNP MP Mhairi Black: now I was going to hear the First Minister of the Scottish Government, who received a standing ovation, with cheers and applause, before she’d even opened her mouth.
Graham Speirs was her interviewer, and he went immediately to Boris… It was most interesting to hear Ms Sturgeon make her opinions very plain, without descending to abuse or belittling – would other politicians could learn from her! She talked of him as a charmer who emits a stream of words which provide a convenient smokescreen to hide the complete lack of content in the words, and when being asked about his visit to Bute House, when he attempted to [quite literally] hand her in to her own house, said “I decided I wisnae havin’ it”.
There was of course a lot of questioning about Brexit, and the possibly increased prospect of Scottish Independence if there is a no-deal Brexit. Once again there was no bombast, no heady rhetoric, but a steadfast determination to do everything in her power to further the best interests of Scotland. She was outspoken in her questioning of the [reported] anti-no-deal majority in the Westminster parliament – why can they not co-operate, consider every possibility, and agree a solution, setting party politics aside to work together for the greater good? As an aside she added “it is possible to think more than one thing at a time – if you’re a woman…”
There was conversation around working with three different Prime Ministers during her time as First Minister and with members of other political parties, and whether it is possible to be friends with people holding political opinions differing radically from her own – of course it is, she said: she tries to work constructively with everyone even if she doesn’t get on with them or have much trust in them.
She didn’t come from an actively political family: Margaret Thatcher was in power while Ms Sturgeon was at school – she may not have agreed with her policies but acknowledged that, while doing nothing in particular to advance the cause or position of women in society, the fact that she was Prime Minister did make it possible for girls and women to contemplate a future in politics – or elsewhere – at the highest level.
Again and again she emphasised the importance of respecting the opinions of people who differ from one’s own, of not demonising “other”, and of her commitment to confirming Scotland as a country offering a warm welcome to everyone, where there is no place for bigotry, racism, homo- or transphobia. Upon being asked “what makes a person Scottish?” she replied if you think of yourself as Scottish, if you think of Scotland as your home, you’re as Scottish as I am. This, like so much else she said in that all-too-brief hour, was treated with loud applause and cheering – which was repeated, with many people on their feet, as she left the platform to go back to her day job.