Inside today’s Daily Mail:
The front page of today’s Daily Mail:
You know, I really don’t think non-SNP voters quite understand why we like our elected members so much. They see Nicola Sturgeon’s immense popularity – one that leaves every other party’s champions trailing in the dust – and are flummoxed. They certainly didn’t understand why Alex Salmond was so popular as First Minister either: how could a politician be so beloved of the people? The Great British Public are supposed to despise and distrust politicians, aren’t they? To their mind, all they saw was a cult of personality, a weird and irrational obsession peculiar to Nationalists who view her with fawning adulation and unquestioning supplication.
“Who does she think she is, the Queen?”
“I wish!” – Elizabeth Windsor (probably)
I can understand why people vehemently opposed to independence would be unable to reconcile their anathema with any reasoned insight as to why the First Minister is generally greeted with warmth and appreciation, where her UK government counterparts are lucky they don’t get pelted with foodstuffs by their own constituents.
I can’t speak for all Scots, or SNP supporters, but I can say why I like Nicola Sturgeon so much, and it’s all in this clip:
That was from a television debate all the way back in the 1990s. The young Ms Sturgeon was at the forefront of the SNP’s grassroots even back then, as a member of Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association. She was never far from the forefront:
The difference is that when Nicola started out in the public eye, it was right as the Other Party were embarking upon the Great Blair Experiment. Back then, her party was still viewed as a distraction from the “real issues” tackled by “real parties.” When Ms Sturgeon stood at her first election in Glasgow Shettleston in 1992, the SNP was starting from a distant third place in a seat where David Marshall enjoyed a 50.3% majority. When she campaigned and spoke on a public platform, the thousands of activists and supporters before her were not on her team. She did not win the election. She did not give up. She stood in the local elections for Irvine North on Cunninghame in 1992; Baillieston/Mount Vernon in Strathclyde in 1994; Bridgeton in Glasgow in 1995. She failed three times, and got back on her feet three times.
She challenged Westminster again in 1997, this time for Glasgow Govan. Yet again she failed – but once again, got back on her feet, this time in the knowledge that she saw the only Scottish seat with a swing away from the Other Party right in the middle of its historic landslide. In Shettleston, she lost to a 14,834 majority: five years later in Govan, it was a mere 2,914.
Even when the Scottish Parliament reconvened, Nicola did not find success instantly. She contested the new Glasgow Govan Scottish Parliament constituency, but lost out to Gordon Jackson in the 1999 and 2003 elections – however, the Additional Member System saw her elected to the Glasgow Region. In 2007 – fifteen years and seven failed elections later – Nicola Sturgeon finally won a First Past the Post election, winning Glasgow Govan for the SNP.
Seven times, Nicola Sturgeon stood for election as an SNP candidate on all levels of Scottish government: seven times, she lost. But she did not give up, even if it took her fifteen years from her first campaign to her first constituency success. She tried, and tried, and tried again. She was not blessed with direct access to the establishment to facilitate her walking straight into a political career, like David Cameron or Tony Blair. She was not a member of a political dynasty. She was not a celebrity who decided to try her luck in politics. She was just a Scot who believed that Scotland should be an independent country, who worked hard, and did everything she could to make that happen.
Stuart McMillan contested Inverclyde for Westminster in 2005: he won 19.6% of the vote, but lost to David Cairns. Two years later, he contested Greenock & Inverclyde for Holyrood: this time he won 30.3% and was elected to the West of Scotland region, but again, did not win the constituency. In 2011, he won 42.1% – many constituencies have been won on less – but was only 511 votes short. Three times, Stuart has contested Inverclyde on the UK and Scottish government levels, and each time, he’s come closer – all before the referendum and the SNP surge.
I wouldn’t expect the Unionist commentariat to understand that, given how many of the Union’s greatest advocates are the beneficiaries of pomp and privilege. But I think the people of Scotland understand: if you believe in something, then you don’t just give up. You try again. And again. And again. Until the job is done.