Nicola Sturgeon: 10 things that have changed my life

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The First Minister of Scotland has revealed 10 things that changed her life.

In an interview with The National, Nicola Sturgeon told of the 10 things she believes have made the greatest impact on her life.

1. Library card

“My library card was absolutely crucial. I loved visiting Irvine Library. Books have given me so much. They give you a sense of perspective, they give you a sense of escapism, relaxation. But they are a window to the world.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

“They take you to countries you have never been to, to periods of history that you have never experienced, they open your eyes to backgrounds and lives that you have never had yourself.”

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2. A Nelson Mandela demo

“The first major political demo I went on was the Nelson Mandela 70th birthday one in Glasgow. That was important for me. I was 17, 18 at the time and those kind of injustices underlined and solidified my desire as a young girl to change the world.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sits on a swing as she officially opens a play park in Dunfermline.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sits on a swing as she officially opens a play park in Dunfermline.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sits on a swing as she officially opens a play park in Dunfermline. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

3. My modern studies teacher

“My modern studies teacher was hugely influential in my life and probably did more than anybody – outside my family – to instil not just an interest in politics but a confidence to follow through on it. He was Mr Kelso and I saw him after I became First Minister.

“The BBC did a documentary on me and I went back to the school and he gave me one of my essays about nuclear weapons. It was weird reading it. It must have been second or third year. I totally recognised myself in it, absolutely.”

4. Glasgow University

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“I was the first person in my family to go to university. It was always something I wanted to do and there was never any sense from my mum and dad that it was something I could not do.

“For somebody coming from a working-class background not just going to Glasgow University but the law faculty … you are surrounded by privately educated people. For the first wee while it was a bit intimidating.

“It was not until my first exam results were given that I said to myself: ‘I can cope with being here.’ Up until then you say: ‘Am I really up to this?’ I was coming from a state school and meeting privately educated people who exuded confidence in a way I was not familiar with.”

5. The Keys to Bute House

“People say the job of First Minister is mindboggling in its demands. I suppose it is, but when you step back from it, it’s manageable. Part of what makes it difficult is that it’s unpredictable. But that’s what makes it good.

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“It can be stressful. I’ve learned a huge amount about myself. The most important thing is that you develop a core sense in your own mind of what is right and what is wrong, not just in a moral sense.

“You learn about your own values.

“And you try to use that knowledge to try to steer your way through issues. One day I will write screeds about what I have learned about myself. You learn there are things about yourself you have to change.

6. My family

“My mother and father gave me self-belief. My mum was only 18 when I was born, my dad just a few years older, and yet they managed to give me this sense of belief that nothing was off limits to me. That is the most valuable thing any parent can give to a child.

“Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t an overweening confidence. I wasn’t an overly confident girl or teenager. It was more an inner determination. I was not going to let people put me off, I was not going to let people tell me I couldn’t do things.”

7. Independence

“This has been quite important to me (laughs).

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“I don’t remember deciding that I supported independence. I just don’t remember thinking anything else. The bottom line was: we should be independent.

“People also ask when I wanted to go into politics. When I was at school, I wanted to be involved in politics but I didn’t think I would be a politician. This place [Holyrood] did not exist. Of course, this Parliament is something that has changed my life, too. I was 22 when I was a candidate, the youngest in the UK.

“There was definitely a drive within me. I struggle to articulate and explain what it was, but it was within. It was simply something I wanted to do.

8. My friends

“Because of the length of time I have been in politics a lot of my close friends are in politics. People like Shona Robison (pictured), for example. I have good friends from university and good friends from school.

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“I do not keep up with them as much as I should and that is entirely my fault. The older you get, the more important these friendships become to you.”

9. Marriage

“Marriage has given me a lot. I was one of those women from a young age who said marriage was just a piece of paper, I’ll never get married. It surprised me how much of a difference it did make. It gives me a sense of stability, security, that there is somebody there who knows knows the real you, instead of the person you read about in the newspapers.

“There is a sense of loneliness in this job, very much so. There are things you can’t share, that you can’t always make someone understand.

“But Peter [Murrell] can tell when there is stuff on my mind that I can’t really talk to him about. He understands enough to know how to support me without necessarily being explicit about it all. He has an intuitive sense of what I need.”

10. Fashion

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“I wouldn’t choose to dress the way I do if I didn’t do the job I do.

“My mother always instilled in me the importance of looking smart and for women in politics it is important. It shouldn’t be, but it is. The media tear you apart. Left to my own devices I would just be in my jeans. My first expensive bit of clothing? “