'Don't be ridiculous' says Nicola Sturgeon when compared to Liz Truss at SNP conference

16.10.23 Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf Credit: PA
'Don't be ridiculous' retorts former SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon in response to being asked if her attendance at the Party's Conference in Aberdeen overshadows her successor, Humza Yousaf. Credit: PA

Nicola Sturgeon has denied her appearance at the SNP's annual conference yesterday meant she had overshadowed the party's new leader, Humza Yousaf.

The former First Minister was surrounded by a huge crowd of journalists as she made her first appearance at the conference which she used to dominate as leader.

Ms Sturgeon was asked by ITV if she was becoming the Liz Truss of the SNP - following in the footsteps of the ex-Prime Minister who attracted similar attention at the recent Tory conference, taking the spotlight away from Rishi Sunak's leadership.

She retorted "don't be ridiculous".

  • Video Credit: ITV

Instead, the former SNP leader gave her "full unequivocal support" to the party's new strategy.

Ms Sturgeon insisted her presence at the SNP annual conference in Aberdeen would not undermine Humza Yousaf - who succeeded her as party leader and Scottish First Minister following a divisive leadership contest in the spring.

She said: "You know that I think Humza is doing a fantastic job as leader of the party and as First Minister, and I don't think there is any doubt from what I have seen about who is in charge of this conference, and it's Humza Yousaf."

The former leader, who was arrested and questioned by police officers investigating SNP finances in June, was hugged by well-wishers as she arrived at the conference venue.

Ms Sturgeon said she had been watching conference proceedings "from afar" before her arrival at The Event Complex Aberdeen (Teca).

Nicola Sturgeon, who led the SNP Party for eight years from 2014 - 2023, was hugged by well-wishers as she arrived at conference venue. Credit: PA

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said Ms Sturgeon's appearance at conference "upstaged Humza Yousaf and undermined his attempts to try and stamp his authority on his party".

Mr Hoy added: "Nicola Sturgeon must be living on a different planet if she doesn't think her appearance is overshadowing Humza Yousaf's first conference as party leader.

"Activists and the media were falling over themselves to meet her and hear what she had to say. It is clear that the former first minister is still the star attraction at SNP conference, eight months on from when she stood down."

The Conservative MSP said Mr Yousaf "must find it utterly galling that she's stealing the limelight away from him. He's finding himself having to pick up the pieces of the divided party she left behind as well as the fallout from Nicola Sturgeon finding herself at the heart of a police investigation."

Ms Sturgeon's visit to the conference came the day after party members voted against proposals which would have effectively made the next Westminster election a de facto referendum on independence.

Speaking about the new independence strategy adopted by the SNP, Ms Sturgeon explained that "one of the reasons I took the decision to stand down was I believed I had given it my all on moving the country to independence but I had taken it as far as I could".

She added: "In those circumstances it was right, and that was my objective, the party took the time to consider the way forward it wanted to adopt. It did that yesterday, it did that unanimously as far as I could see yesterday, and that position has my full unequivocal support."

Such a policy, which had been championed by Ms Sturgeon while she was leader, would have required the SNP to win more than 50% of votes north of the border in the next general election to make progress on independence.

Instead, activists overwhelmingly endorsed the policy put forward by Mr Yousaf, which could see immediate negotiations with Westminster to "give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country" if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats in the next UK election - which is likely to be held sometime next year.

Ms Sturgeon said it was "right" that party members had debated the issue, insisting that she backed the decision made.

Ms Sturgeon also confirmed she has not spoken to police officers again following her arrest, with the former first minister having been released without any charges being brought.

Following the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election defeat less than two weeks ago, which saw a swing of more than 20% to Labour, she was pressed on whether the police investigation meant she was a liability to the SNP.

However, Ms Sturgeon said her "record as SNP leader speaks for itself."

"I am no longer the leader of the SNP, Humza is more than capable of speaking for himself.

"I was a leader with, it's fair to say, a fair amount of electoral success under my belt. I look forward to supporting the SNP's future electoral success in a very different capacity."

The former first minister added that with the SNP now "the best part of 20 years into office" in Scotland the party needs to "remind people why we won so many elections in the past".

Ms Sturgeon, who is currently concentrating on writing her memoirs, continued: "It's about being on the side of people who aspire for a better life for themselves and their kids, it's about standing up and providing a voice for people who are often marginalised, where necessary standing up to vested interests and always standing up for Scotland and making the connections between our belief in independence and those issues that people have as priorities."

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