There was talk at the time of Alex Salmond’s resignation that Nicola Sturgeon wouldn’t truly be in charge, and that Salmond would be directing from the back seat.
What nonsense that has proved to be. Salmond has been relegated to the part of “bad cop” who keeps the fundamentalist wing on side, while “good cop” Sturgeon executes the PR strategy of being the nice but strong, normal but fiercely intelligent lady who sells her brand of reasonable leftism, which, according to the doctrine, is quintessentially Scottish.
And so to America, for a visit designed to attract widespread coverage not just in Scotland but on UK network news. Sturgeon has had a phenomenally successful week. Her appearance on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, early in the visit, set the tone. You do not have to be a Nationalist to have laughed at her gag about being wrongly billed as a comedian. And you do not have to be a pacifist to admire her clever one-liner about America asking permission to invade Scotland for our oil. Sturgeon does a good line in “normal”.
It wasn’t all jokes and TV slots. A visit to a school to learn lessons on how we can improve our failing schools system. Some clever speeches designed to remind us of how different we are to England. One astutely noted that the recent general election result looked like four different elections, in four different countries, on one day; the other reinforcing the (debatable) assertion that Scotland is teeming with Europhiles. And, vitally, meetings with the US government and the IMF.
There is a school of thought in the SNP that the key to becoming an independent country is to behave like an independent country.
Nicola Sturgeon is not the leader of an independent country. But, this week, she sure looked like one.
l Andy Maciver is director of Message Matters, a strategic communications company