Home Politics EMMA COWING: Nicola Sturgeon has betrayed all of us women. In the end she failed herself, too

EMMA COWING: Nicola Sturgeon has betrayed all of us women. In the end she failed herself, too

by Alexander
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Maiden speech: Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood in 2014

On a cold November afternoon in 2014, Nicola Sturgeon stood inside the Scottish parliament to deliver her maiden speech as First Minister. Wearing an elegant red dress and impeccably coiffed hair, she wasted no time in establishing her feminist credentials.

“I hope that my election really opens the door to greater opportunities for all women,” she told the camera, her voice breaking with emotion.

“I hope it sends a strong, positive message to all the girls and young women in our country: there should be no limits to the ambition of what can be achieved.”

His dress and behavior could have been a reflection of yesterday’s resignation speech. And yet, how different things look on the other side of the mirror! Because just over eight years later, the woman who started work promising greater opportunities for women in Scotland is leaving disappointing them all.

In Sturgeon’s self-serving resignation speech there was little reflection on the disastrous legacy she leaves behind. Not a word about the horrendous mess she has created with her gender recognition reform bill, or the culture of fear she has fostered within her own nationalist government when it comes to defending women’s rights. .

Maiden speech: Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood in 2014

Stand: Author JK Rowling accused Nicola Sturgeon of being a destroyer of women's rights

Stand: Author JK Rowling accused Nicola Sturgeon of being a destroyer of women’s rights

Instead, his farewell was punctuated by the tone-deaf arrogance with which the nation has become so familiar, a stubbornness that seems to arise from a refusal to admit that he has done anything wrong.

And yet, Sturgeon has left her party and her country (the one she claimed to love so much it almost seemed to move her to tears) completely divided.

It’s a situation that could hardly have seemed credible in 2014. After all, after the referendum vote, which opened deep fissures at the center of our small nation, who could have imagined that the country could end up even more fractured? in Sturgeon’s Scotland?

Like many women in this country, I was delighted when Sturgeon replaced Alex Salmond. While I didn’t agree with her on the issue of independence, she seemed smart and active, full of energy and new ideas, a welcome relief from the domineering old guard. A female prime minister seemed like an exciting new dawn for Scotland and, by extension, the women in it.

And yet it was not long before the new First Minister revealed how much she had been made in the Salmond mould. His bullying, mocking style, his sardonic “I’m just admitting I’m right” laugh, his belittling of his opponents, and his increasingly arrogant refusal to admit wrongdoing. It all seemed eerily familiar, probably because it came straight from Salmond’s playbook.

I remember my surprise when, after Salmond shouted “behave yourself, woman” at Tory MP Anna Soubry in the House of Commons in 2015, Sturgeon jumped to her defence, claiming that “I don’t know any man who is less sexist” .

Tellingly, last month veteran Labor MP Jackie Baillie commented that in the years before Sturgeon’s ascension to the top job she never “remembered Nicola Sturgeon as a feminist”, adding: “I think this has been a product of her being Prime Minister.’

Of course, Sturgeon has always been good at window dressing, particularly when it comes to polishing her own brand of lipstick feminism. Therefore, since her tenure, we have had a 50/50 gender split cabinet, a decision that has saddled us with outgoing ducks like Angela Constance and Shona Robison (Sturgeon’s closest friend).

Then there’s the baby box, an idea to warm the cockles of your progressive heart that has cost a ridiculous amount and should only have been available to those on low incomes.

However, many accepted all this. The New York Times described Sturgeon as “Scotland’s first feminist minister”, while a BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour list named her the most powerful woman in the world.

She cultivated an elegant, well-groomed and never ostentatious image. We became accustomed to seeing her touching televisions, conference stages, SNP rallies, with all the confidence of a down-to-earth world leader that she still had time for a smiling selfie with her hordes of admirers.

And yet, it wasn’t long before the shine began to fade from the dashing, people-pleasing leader. He angered nationalists by his delay in independence, while frustrating unionists by his insistence that another referendum was the only way forward.

Her stubbornness in the face of ill-considered policies like the Named Person plan spoke of a woman who refused to back down even when she knew she was wrong, a personality trait that seemed to become increasingly prevalent as she weathered the storms. of the ferries. fiasco to the Covid care home scandal, to questions about the missing £600,000, to the Alex Salmond investigation, from which she emerged seriously injured.

Outcry: Transgender rapist Isla Bryson was sent to a women's prison

Outcry: Transgender rapist Isla Bryson was sent to a women’s prison

Protest: Women's rights activists demonstrate outside Bute House

Protest: Women’s rights activists demonstrate outside Bute House

In November 2020, before a media blitz of selfish selfies, meetings and personal pressures at the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow (even then, many were wondering if he had been quietly polishing a CV and was in the market for a new job), Sturgeon posed for British Vogue in designer outfits at Bute House.

In the accompanying interview, she reflected on the political departures of her former fellow fighters, including Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale and Theresa May, telling the magazine: “I’m the last woman standing.”

It was a poor choice of words. Because over the past year what Sturgeon has witnessed are the tight ranks of Scottish women, including JK Rowling, confronting her. Pained by their betrayal, furious that the proposed GRR bill – and the subsequent row after transgender rapist Isla Bryson was jailed for women – would erode their rights, deny them safe spaces and set the women’s movement back a generation, They spoke. They attended rallies and demanded to be heard.

Whatever Sturgeon may say now about how she can no longer give it her all, about it being the right time to leave for personal reasons, deep down she must know that it is her arrogant attitude towards the very women she once said she had. He opened the door to what has cost him his career. That she doesn’t have the humility to admit it feels like a final betrayal.

We still don’t know where the GRR bill will go from now on. Scotland’s women and girls may still have to live forever with the legacy of Sturgeon’s disastrous final months. If so, they will find their safety compromised and their rights eroded by a woman who once promised she would have their back.

In the coming weeks and months, as Sturgeon sifts through the dying embers of her career, she may well reflect that the woman she has ultimately failed is herself.

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