Nicola Sturgeon isn’t actually standing in the UK’s General Election on Thursday, not that you’d guess for all the attention she’s received. That’s because, as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and First Minister of Scotland, she’s potentially due to have a pivotal role in determining who forms the next British government.
With no single party expected to win a majority, and her SNP forecast to win many if not all of the available seats in Scotland – the only part of the United Kingdom in which they stand – Sturgeon could very well find herself as kingmaker come the end of the week.
Here’s what you need to know about the woman who could have a considerable impact on the future of the UK:
1. She’s the Leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland
Nicola Sturgeon is the current leader of the Scottish National Party and the fifth person (and first woman) to hold the post of First Minister of Scotland since devolution. She was elected in November 2014 following previous leader Alex Salmond’s resignation after the SNP lost the 2014 vote on Scottish Independence.
Ironically, losing the Independence vote – the SNP’s raison d’etre – has actually strengthened both Sturgeon and the party. While ultimately unsuccessful, their campaign developed a groundswell of support and a significant increase in party membership, while alienating large swathes of previous Labour supporters, who actively opposed independence.
As an MSP – member of the Scottish Parliament – Sturgeon isn’t standing in Thursday’s elections for the UK Parliament, but members of the SNP are standing in every seat to be contested in Scotland, and the polls suggest they will win big on Thursday, with one forecasting them to win all of the 59 seats available north of the border.
2. Before Becoming a Politician, She was a Lawyer
Sturgeon grew up in Prestwick and Dreghorn in the south west of Scotland, the eldest daughter of an electrician and dental nurse. She studied Law at Glasgow University, and qualified as a solicitor in 1993, working for the law firm Bell & Craig and later Drumchapel Law Centre in Glasgow.
Sturgeon first stood for election as an MP in 1992 at the age of just 21, but failed to win the seat. She stood again in the General Election of 1997, again losing out. But in 1999 at the first elections for the Scottish Parliament, she was elected to Holyrood at the age of 28. She has been an MSP ever since.
3. Yes, She’s Married
Sturgeon married Peter Murrell – chief executive of the SNP – in July 2010 in Glasgow. The pair have been in a relationship since 2003, and live together in Uddingston, just outside Glasgow.
Sturgeon and Murrell do not have any children, something the First Minister says “wasn’t a conscious decision”, adding “life takes certain directions and it doesn’t take other directions and that’s about as complicated as it gets.”
4. She Hates the Tories
It’s fair to say Sturgeon’s politics are somewhere to the left of center. She wants to scrap Trident, the UK’s nuclear deterrent. She wants to dramatically increase public spending and borrowing. She wants to increase the minimum wage by a third, and she wants to introduce a 50% top rate of income tax.
But perhaps the defining feature of Nicola Sturgeon’s political outlook – apart from home rule for Scotland – is a consistent loathing of the Conservative Party. She has regularly expressed her hatred of Margaret Thatcher (not uncommon in Scotland), and during the leadership debate back in April, she expressly offered Labour leader Ed Miliband a deal between the two parties to “lock David Cameron out of Downing Street.” She added: “You have a chance to kick David Cameron out of Downing Street. Don’t turn your back on it. People will never forgive you for it.”
The possibility of the SNP propping up a minority Labour government is one that could fundamentally destabilize the existing political status quo in the UK, raising the possibility of MPs representing only Scottish constituencies influencing votes on English-only laws. In a recent poll, fully 70% of respondents said the SNP should not be able to veto laws that only affect England.
5. And She Doesn’t Like Dolls, Either
Sturgeon’s younger sister, Gillian Owens, revealed in an interview with the BBC in April that her elder sibling used to “tease me quite a bit, and she used to cut the hair off my Barbie dolls.”
It led to a Twitter outburst, with #dollgate (original) trending in the UK. Sturgeon vehemently denied the allegations. Sort of:
For the record, I think my sister is misremembering. I’m sure it was a Sindy doll. #DollGate
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) April 25, 2015