If any­one can bring the SNP back to life, it’s Stur­geon

Sunday Mail (UK) - - News -

When Ni­cola Stur­geon stepped up as leader of the SNP af­ter a failed in­de­pen­dence bid, it wasn’t clear what was next for the party.

It’s easy to for­get that the en­tire in­de­pen­dence move­ment was in the dol­drums.

Sure­footed and calm, Stur­geon barely put a foot wrong in her early months in charge.

What seemed like a poisoned chal­ice be­came a gift.

The SNP looked far more ap­peal­ing to wa­ver­ing vot­ers un­der her lead­er­ship than they had un­der Alex Sal­mond.

Stur­geon quickly grasped that the hos­til­i­ties which had taken hold dur­ing the ref­er­en­dum had to be re­solved if her over­ar­ch­ing mis­sion was to be ac­com­plished.

She un­der­stood that hos­tile crit­i­cism of No vot­ers was get­ting the Yes move­ment nowhere.

An in­creased ma­jor­ity fol­lowed but was just a tremor com­pared to the West­min­ster elec­tions in 2015. Stur­geon’s party took 56 out of 59 seats and there was no real feel­ing that this was even the peak.

Since then, how­ever, there have only been prob­lems. Some out of Stur­geon’s con­trol but many more self-in­flicted.

Her gov­ern­ment’s record in Holyrood might sym­pa­thet­i­cally be de­scr ibed as a mixed bag.

Chaos in the class­rooms be­cause of fund­ing cuts, in­creased A&E wait­ing times and last year’s ScotRail cri­sis are just three ex­am­ples.

The “rock st a r ” con­fer­ences of re­cent years with packed crowds in con­cert venues eat­ing out of her hands must seem a long way away.

News of an opin­ion poll show­ing her lead­er­ship rat­ing at its low­est to date will hardly have come as a sur­prise.

But from ad­ver­sity comes op­por­tu­nity. Stur­geon must now look for new ways to re-es­tab­lish her party’s ID with both the mem­ber­ship and the vot­ers.

It’s daft to ex­pect her to dial back on in­de­pen­dence al­to­gether.

It is part of the party’s DNA and al­ways will be. The mis­take would be mak­ing any more hasty dec­la­ra­tions around pos­si­ble timeta­bles.

In any case, her an­swer can and should be that it’s off the ta­ble un­til Brexit is com­plete.

Stur­geon doesn’t have a magic wand to fix all of her lo­cal dif­fi­cul­ties. Find­ing the so­lu­tions to the prob­lems which now en­gulf her is the big­gest task she’s faced.

But given her past record, only a fool would un­der­es­ti­mate her.

She’s done it be­fore – and Stur­geon can re­ju­ve­nate the SNP again.

Her party took 56 out of 59 seats and there was no feel­ing this was the peak

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