Saturday, September 30

Iain Dale: All Talk with Nicola Sturgeon MSP – Pleasance at EICC

Nicola Sturgeon received a rapturous reception when she walked onto the stage. The audience was overwhelmingly on her side with regular outbursts of applause in response to her comments.

This was her first extended interview since she stepped down as Scotland’s First Minister five months ago. Her interviewer was the broadcaster, Iain Dale, who is also interviewing other politicians at the Festival Fringe.

Although a Conservative, you cannot tell from Dale’s questions. His approach is conversational, not confrontational. Dale has a good rapport with Sturgeon who he’s interviewed twice before. It’s a wide-ranging interview on a host of subjects including some very personal questions.

Dale reminds Sturgeon that at the start of the year she said she had ‘plenty left in the tank’ so why did she suddenly announce her resignation two months later? Maybe it had been bubbling away in her subconscious, she replies. But adds that when Jacinda Ardern announced in January that she was resigning as Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sturgeon’s overwhelming emotion was one of envy.

Sturgeon is adamant that her resignation was not motivated by the Police investigation into SNP finances. She did not know how events were about to unfold. The first she knew about the police wanting to arrest her husband was a knock on the door.

Dale described the police erecting a tent on the Sturgeons’s lawn as like a moment out of ‘Brookside’ and seemed over the top. But Sturgeon said the police had a job to do and she would let the process play itself out.

Photo: Rich Dyson

She was also arrested but knew she had done nothing wrong. The last few months had been difficult, but she had found depths of resilience that she didn’t know she had.

Dale put it to her that she had failed as First Minister because she had not achieved her main goal of securing Scottish Independence. This was one of her regrets, said Sturgeon. She had gone as far as she could with Independence, and maybe that was a factor in her decision to resign.

But the Westminster Establishment – including the Labour Party as well as the Tory Government – had refused to recognise Scottish democracy. Scotland had given the Scottish Government a mandate to hold a second Independence Referendum. But Westminster was blocking democracy because they feared they would lose another Referendum.

The only way to get round this was ‘People Power’. If voters in Scotland voted in sufficiently high numbers, then even Westminster would find it hard to resist democracy.

Asked about her proudest achievement, she cited the Scottish Child payment which gives families £25 a week for each child. This has lifted children out of poverty. No other UK nation has introduced this.

Sturgeon also mentioned that while she was First Minister Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol. This had been shown to have saved many lives.

On the high number of drugs deaths in Scotland, Sturgeon said they needed to do much better. But she pointed out that Westminster would not let the Scottish Government take measures that have proved successful in other countries such as the introduction of Assisted Treatment Centres.

Nicola Sturgeon has just signed a book deal. She has already started writing and finds it therapeutic and enjoyable. She has always wanted to write books. Sturgeon is an avid reader, frequently recommending books on social media.

This was a fascinating interview. Whether or not you agree with her politics, Nicola Sturgeon has been one of the most formidable politicians of recent years. She was at the top of Scottish politics for nearly 20 years.

It’s understandable that after more than eight years in the top job, Nicola Sturgeon wanted to cease being First Minister. But at only 53, she is seeking new challenges. We have surely not heard the last of her.

Reviewer: Tom Scott

Reviewed: 10th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.