Thursday, 30 October 2014

Nicola Sturgeon@Corn Exchange, Edinburgh

Last night my other half and I went to see Nicola Sturgeon at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh, on the opening night of her tour of Scotland since becoming the next leader of the SNP.  My other half likes to make sure we get to these things in plenty of time, so we ended up sitting in the front row.  Not that we had a choice - the stewards were very officious in making everyone fill up each row from the front backwards, and you didn't get to sit wherever you wanted.  Somewhat annoying, as the view we had wasn't the best.

The gig was a little late in starting, as there were still people arriving and being seated at 7pm.  It was a full house, as you can see:

After a short introduction Ms Sturgeon, small and elegantly dressed in her usual style, walked onto the stage to huge cheers and the first standing ovation of the evening.

Her speech covered a wide range of topics and put great emphasis on her intention to lead the Scottish Government on behalf of all of the people of Scotland and not just those who supported independence in the last referendum.  However, she has not given up on the ultimate aim of an independent Scotland, but sees that more work is needed to persuade a majority of people that this is what's best for our country.  She reflected on the referendum and singled out Patrick Harvie as someone she had very much enjoyed working with during this.

She covered the SNP's intention to work constructively with the Smith Commission and said that they would be endeavouring to get the maximum possible powers from this, on the basis that the more powers the Scottish Government has, the better they can do for Scotland.  She also made a commitment to keep the Scottish NHS as a public service.  She talked about the EU referendum and her intention to table an amendment to any legislation for this, requiring all four home nations to return a vote to leave rather than just a simple majority, citing the fact that Gordon Brown had promised the people of Scotland that we would be as near to a federal nation as it was possible to be as the basis for this.  At the end of her speech she received another standing ovation.

Next came a Q&A session, where any member of the audience was invited to put a question to Ms Sturgeon.  One person asked whether a large increase in SNP representation after May would be grounds to trigger another independence referendum or a unilateral declaration of independence.  Her reply was that one of the keystones in the last referendum was the Edinburgh Agreement, which gave legitimacy to the referendum and would have been essential in forming new relationships at home and abroad in the event that Yes had won.  Any future referendum would also have to have the same legitimacy, or it would be very difficult for Scotland to break away.  There was a question from a 14-year old on Alex Salmond's intentions for his next move (he hasn't made up his mind yet) and another from a chap on a specific issue he was having with the NHS.  In the latter case Ms Sturgeon asked him to provide her with more details so that she could have the matter investigated.  Most of the questions came from SNP members, but there was one from a member of the Scottish Greens (this wasn't an event for SNP members only - people were encouraged to bring along non-members as well).

The Q&A session came to an end, and there was another standing ovation.  Most people started to leave after this, but Ms Sturgeon came out into the auditorium and was happy to meet and talk to people, as well as posing for pictures with those who wanted them.

I wasn't in a great position to get pictures, but here are some of Ms Sturgeon in full flow:

As we were leaving there were a number of stalls where people could sign up to their local SNP branch, which seemed to be pretty busy.  There was also an official SNP merchandise stall, with proceeds going to party funds.  I bought the official tour t-shirt:

There is a lady from my local SNP branch who makes gorgeous indy bracelets like this:

She also makes saltire bracelets and SNP colour bracelets, all for a very reasonable price.  She had almost sold out by the time I got there, so I've put in a request for a saltire one from the next batch she makes.  Again, the money goes towards SNP funds.

All in all it was a very interesting evening, and I think those attending the other dates on the tour are in for a very enjoyable time.

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