The rise of Nicola Sturgeon
By Diane Cooke
Brought up in a council house in the North Ayrshire town of Irvine in 1970, her mother a dental nurse, her father an electrician, Nicola Sturgeon became an SNP member at just 16. She is the fifth and current First Minister of Scotland and the leader of the Scottish National Party, in office since 2014. She is the first woman to hold either position.
She told BBC Radio Four's Women's Hour: "Thatcher was prime minister, the economy wasn't in great shape, lots of people around me were looking at a life or an immediate future of unemployment and I think that certainly gave me a strong sense of social justice and, at that stage, a strong feeling that it was wrong for Scotland to be governed by a Tory government that we hadn't elected."
But, unlike many who chose to support Labour - then the dominant force in Scottish politics - she was persuaded by the argument that that nation would only truly prosper with independence.
After studying law at Glasgow University and working as a solicitor at the city's Drumchapel Law Centre, Ms Sturgeon's entry into full-time politics came at the age of 29, when she was elected to the new Holyrood parliament in 1999.
Alex Salmond recognised Ms Sturgeon’s political talent and she started climbing the rungs towards political power following the creation of the Scottish Parliament, when she was elected as a regional list MSP for Glasgow under proportional representation. She was a high-profile member of the SNP’s Shadow Cabinet under both Mr Salmond and John Swinney, his successor.
The 46-year-old lives in Glasgow with her husband, Peter Murrell, the SNP’s chief executive. She first met him at a Young Scottish Nationalists gathering in Aberdeenshire when she was 18.She married, in 2010. She revealed last year that she had had a miscarriage in 2011, only making the disclosure because she wanted to “challenge some of the assumptions and judgments that are still made about women – especially in politics – who don’t have children”.
Sturgeon portrays herself as on the left, which infuriates Labour, who point to statistics on health and education over the last ten years the SNP has been in power and suggest it is harder now for anyone from a working-class background to make it to university, as Sturgeon did.
Forbes magazine ranked her as the world's 50th most powerful woman in politics in 2016 and second in the UK in 2015.
She has put gender equality at the forefront of her political agenda, along with independence.
Ms Sturgeon is regarded as a “nippy sweety” in Glaswegian dialect, a prickly character who is difficult to warm to.
She and her advisers have worked hard to soften her image and she now appears much more empathetic, but she still appears to have little hinterland outside politics.