The First Minister has used the coronavirus pandemic to transform Scotland into an independent “state” rather than a country in the UK, Express.co.uk has been told. It comes as Ms Sturgeon said Scotland’s objective must be “to eliminate” coronavirus. She warned that “the virus won’t play ball” with any effort to maintain numbers at a “medium level”.
Ms Sturgeon and other devolved nation leaders have been given sprawling powers since the beginning of the pandemic to manage the health crisis according to caseloads and death rates in their country.
Many have noted that it has boosted calls for independence in Scotland but also increasingly in Wales.
Robert Johns, Professor in Politics at Essex University – who is an investigator on Scottish elections, said Ms Sturgeon had successfully utilised the pandemic, her style of leadership having suited the crisis.
He said: “Her personality and style suit the crisis – it was visible in most leadership debates previously that she’s very good at coping in these situations, she speaks well, she speaks calmly, she’s well briefed and knows what she’s talking about.
“One of the reasons the Scottish National Party (SNP) has done so well is that it has over the years recognised that there are ways of conveying this image of Scotland as a state, not just as a nation, but pushing the trappings of statehood.
“Now, we don’t just have briefings in London for the Government as she set up Scottish government daily briefings.
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“It’s a good strategy, leaving aside her personal attributes, having a figure like her being so prominent is good for the Scottish independence cause.”
Ms Sturgeon today appears in First Minister’s Questions (FMQs), and will be faced not only with how she plans to ease Scotland’s lockdown.
Holyrood has begun to ease some lockdown restrictions, although a stay at home order remains.
A “relatively minor” lifting of lockdown will take place on Friday, with an increase in the number of people who are allowed to mix outdoors.
While figures like Professor Johns believe Ms Sturgeon has utilised the pandemic to her advantage, others fail to see any political credit in her actions.
Paul Embery, a leading trade unionist and Labour member, said Ms Sturgeon and the SNP were “opportunists” who pounced on any crisis to use to their advantage.
Looking at the wider political context, Mr Embery said: “They trade off of opportunism, and I think because Labour was seen to abandon Scotland, many traditional labour supporters decided to throw their lot in with the SNP.
“Now, because things in Scotland are pitched as the SNP versus the Westminster Tories, people will naturally stick with the SNP.”
However, Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, told Express.co.uk that the “opportunism” was a sign of a good leader.
He said: “She’s been able to present her opportunism as principle – that’s what being a good leader is about.”