Following the resignation of Alex Salmond, his deputy Nicola Sturgeon was sworn-in as First Minister of Scotland today to great applause.
Sturgeon, sometimes a little shrill but still a strong and confident performer falls into the category of ‘career politician.’ Having become an activist for the party at 16, she became a member of the Scottish Parliament aged 28.
This isn’t to say her career path is wrong. If anything, whether you agree with Sturgeon or not, it gives an indication of a sustained personal commitment to the principle of independence through good times and bad. This clearly shows in her popularity within the party with some feeling the new First Minister is more palatable than the last.
Sturgeon’s job, having been a loyal deputy for over seven years, is to demonstrate leadership in a way that will maintain the huge momentum behind the nationalist cause.
This will no doubt be supported by the absence of a divisive leadership contest of the likes currently besetting the Labour Party.
The start has been strong with a clear message that the SNP will never prop up the Tories and a promise to make sure Westminster sticks to its last ditch panic promises about further powers to Scotland. But the SNP also needs to be careful. Elections mean that voters also look to a party’s record of delivery and governance. I’m sure their opponents are researching every slip-up ready for exposure at the optimum time.
After September’s referendum result, if the rest of the Union thought that Scotland would go quietly away to lick their wounds they were clearly wrong. The SNP are riding high in the polls – up by 40% - with reports that Labour may fall to a handful of MPs in the General Election. If this direction of travel stays the course it may propel the SNP to try a second referendum on independence.
While the rest of the Union fights and dithers over devolving powers, the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership is at present united, focused and determined. But, the popularity of newly elected party leaders can come and go. Just ask Ed.