Scotland politics

Family and friends speak about the Nicola Sturgeon they know

Image caption Bonny baby, a wrapped up Nicola Sturgeon in her pram in 1970

New SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has been elected Scotland's first woman leader. Here, those closest to her give an insight into what the former solicitor who was born in Irvine 44 years ago is like.


Sibling rivalry

Image caption Gillian Owens and her sister Nicola Sturgeon look through pictures from their childhood
Image caption The toddler Nicola Sturgeon would in her teenage years enter the political arena

Nicola's younger sister, Gillian Owens, says the two siblings are very different, yet love each other very much.

Gillian, said: "Nicola was the sensible one. I was probably more the fun type of sister. Nicola was probably more serious all the time, had her head in books - but she was all right.

"She used to tease me quite a bit and she used to cut the hair off my Barbie dolls, but apart from that she was a lovely sister."

Nicola was the sensible one - I was probably more the fun type of sister

Gillian Owens, Nicola Sturgeon's sister

Nicola responded: "I deny the allegations levelled at me by my sister - I'm sure I didn't cut the hair off her Barbie doll.

"But if I did - and it's an if - then there would have been some provocation involved, I'm sure of it.

"Gillian was much more into Barbie dolls than I was.

"She was five years younger, she still is five years younger than me, it's fair to say. She behaved the way younger sisters tend to behave, but I love her dearly."


Motherly love

Image caption The Sturgeons are a close family, although did not grow up in a political household
Image caption Nicola and her younger sister Gillian lived with their mother and father in Irvine

Nicola's mum, Joan - herself an SNP politician, and the provost of North Ayrshire - said her daughter was a "perfectly normal child".

She added: "She was quite a studious child - enjoyed reading, probably quieter than a lot of children of her own age but normal, you know - until she got into modern studies at school, and I think it was then that she knew what she wanted to do.

"She's always been very driven. Nicola will always achieve what she wants to achieve."

She's always been very driven. Nicola will always achieve what she wants to achieve

Joan Sturgeon, Nicola Sturgeon's mother

Joan said of the family home: "It wasn't a political household, I like to think it was a household where we always knew what was happening in the world and we talked about things like that but, no, definitely not a political household."

Nicola said: "Family is everything to me. My background, my upbringing, my family make me the person I am.

"I can't really put it any more strongly than that. I get incredible support from my family, from my mum and dad, from my sister.

"I couldn't function without what my family has given me and what it continues to give me. They might not always know that I appreciate that but I really do."


Political awakening

Image caption Kay Ullrich and Nicola Sturgeon have remained close friends since first meeting
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon was in her early twenties when she faced the media to talk SNP politics

Kay Ullrich, a veteran SNP campaigner who served as an MSP in the first term of parliament, recalled the first time she met Nicola Sturgeon.

She said: "It was 1987. I was the candidate for Cunninghame South in the general election campaign and there was a bunch of us in and we were getting ready to go out canvassing and there's a chap (knock) at the door, and there stood this wee lassie.

"She was 16, but she looked a lot younger, and she said, 'Mrs Ullrich, can I help you with your campaign? My name's Nicola Sturgeon.'

She [Nicola Sturgeon] was really a smashing girl politically, so unusual for her age

Kay Ullrich, SNP campaigner

"So I brought her in and she went out with us that night and the rest, as they say, is history.

"Nicola was very intense and Nicola thought we were going to win. Nicola was so disappointed when we lost. In fact we came last.

"She learnt a big lesson there. You can have a great campaign, you can work the hardest, you can win all the hustings meetings, you can have the best candidate, but unless you've got that swing you aint got a thing, and she learnt that very early on."

Kay added: "She was really a smashing girl politically, so unusual for her age. What a thing for someone in Dreghorn to do at 16, to knock on the door of the SNP candidate."


School days

Image caption Roy Kelso said Nicola was a hard-working pupil

Nicola's former teacher Roy Kelso, who taught modern studies at her old school, Greenwood Academy did not initially mark Nicola out for stardom.

He recalled: "Nicola came into my life when she was in third year, probably about 1984.

"Nicola was a very nice young lady. She was polite, very hardworking, quite serious, not too serious, you could get her to laugh.

She [Nicola Sturgeon] was polite, very hardworking, quite serious, not too serious, you could get her to laugh

Roy Kelso, modern studies teacher

"Gillian, her sister, was always smiling, whereas Nicola was the serious girl in the family. Conscientious, hardworking, she would contribute when you were having a discussion about a topic she was interested in.

"We didn't have a Scottish parliament in those days, so I wouldn't have said, 'I definitely think she'll get to the top'.

"I think it was when she was about 16 or 17 when she was in higher class she told me she had joined the SNP."


Proud mum

Image caption Joan Sturgeon is now herself a politician

On becoming first minister, Joan Sturgeon said of her daughter: "She's achieved her lifelong dream so I'm very, very proud of her.

"I'm very protective of her, so I do worry about her a lot. I have to say, there's a bit of me a bit anxious about it all, but I'm very happy for her."

Despite mother and daughter entering the realm of elected politics, Nicola predicted sister Gillian would not be following suit any time soon.

Nicola's achieved her lifelong dream so I'm very, very proud of her

Joan Sturgeon, Nicola Sturgeon's mother

However, she added: "Gillian's not had a huge interest in politics over the years - until the referendum, when she became very passionate about the 'Yes' campaign.

"I used to see her debating with people, and if she ever wanted to get in to politics she'd be very, very, very good at it."