Nicola Sturgeon admitted she wishes the Scottish National Party had a different name after a leading author delivered a withering attack on nationalism at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
The SNP leader was appearing at the festival with Turkey’s best selling female author Elif Shafak, a prominent critic of the rise of nationalism in the UK and elsewhere in the world.
The women were appearing at the festival with Heather McDaid, founder of new Scottish publishing company 404 Ink and coeditor of Nasty Women, an anthology of essays about women in the 21st century
Ms Shufak told Ms Sturgeon that living in a divided Turkey had informed her opinion of nationalism.
“Coming from Turkey and seeing the experiences there and across the Middle East, the Balkans – for us the work nationalism and for me personally is a very negative,” the prize-winning author said.
If I could turn the clock back, what 90 years, to the establishment of my party, and choose its name all over again, I wouldn’t choose the name it has got just now.Nicola Sturgeon
“I have seen how ugly it can get. How destructive it can become. How violent it can become and it can divide people into imaginary categories and make them lose that cultural co-existence.
“When I come here I hear the word nationalism being used more in a different way and I doubt that.
Can nationalism ever be benign? Can it be an enobling thing?
Ms Sturgeon responded by admitting the association with nationalism in the SNP’s name was “difficult” and “hugely problematic” for the party.
The First Minister said: “If I could turn the clock back - what 90 years to the establishment of my party and choose its name all over again. I would not chose the name – I would call it something other than the Scottish National Party.
“People then say well why don’t you change its name now? Well, that would be far too complicated. What those of us who do support Scottish independence are all about could not be more further removed from what you would recognise as nationalism in other parts of the world.
“There are two things that I believe that run so strongly through the Scottish independence movement that firstly, it does not matter where you come from. If Scotland is your home and you live here and you feel you have a stake in the country you are Scottish and you have as much say in the future of the country as I do. That is a civic, open and inclusive view of the world which is so far removed from what you would rightly fear.
She added: “Secondly one of the great motivators for those of us who support Scottish independence is wanting to have a bigger voice in the world. It is about being outward looking and internationalist and not inward looking and insular.”