Exclusive: Nicola Sturgeon backs Angus Robertson to stay on as SNP depute leader
Writing for Holyrood, former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill questioned whether Robertson's position was tenable
Nicola Sturgeon - image credit: David Anderson
Nicola Sturgeon has rejected suggestions that Angus Robertson’s position as depute leader of the SNP is untenable after the party’s former Westminster leader lost his seat in the 2017 general election.
Writing for Holyrood, former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill questioned whether Robertson could stay on as depute leader, saying: “Angus Robertson remains deputy leader in name but it’s hard to see how he can fulfil the role as an unelected politician. Leadership is a full-time job, as Gordon Wilson found before.”
But in an exclusive interview with Holyrood editor Mandy Rhodes, Sturgeon put her support behind Robertson to continue in the role.
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Asked whether it was sustainable to have a deputy who is no longer an elected politician, the SNP leader said “of course it is”.
She said: “The SNP in years gone by had many of its key office bearers that weren’t elected politicians because frankly, we didn’t have many elected politicians and one of the strengths of the SNP and one of the ingredients of our success over the years has been our connection with communities, building up over a period of time our strength in different communities, and having senior people in the party who are not in elected office - I wouldn’t have chosen for it to happen in the way it did - but yes I think it can be an opportunity.”
Sturgeon said the loss of Robertson, as well as former SNP leader Alex Salmond, had been “difficult to take”.
She said: “Alex and Angus are both friends of mine, I’ve known them for most of my life, I’ve worked with them for most of my life, Alex obviously particularly closely, so of course I felt a personal sadness about all of the seats we lost but given my closeness to both of them, of course that’s difficult to take. Frankly, how both of them have dealt with it, bouncing back and getting on with things, is probably a lesson to all politicians.”
She added: “I think Alex inevitably will come back into elected politics at some point. I don’t know whether to describe Alex as like my uncle or my big brother or whatever, he’s just such a part of my life and existence, and the thought of politics without Alex Salmond to me is like losing a limb. And that’s just the way it is.
“Alex is a big figure, sometimes his jokes aren’t funny, but would he still be one of the first people I would want to talk to about a big political issue? Of course he would. He’s just got such an incredible political brain and insight and you know, inevitably any time I speak to Alex, he always kind of gives an angle on something you hadn’t thought of before. I would always rather have Alex as part of the picture than not.”
You can read the interview with Nicola Sturgeon in the new issue of Holyrood, available at SNP conference and to subscribers on Monday.
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