Ayesha Hazarika’s State of the Nation: Nicola Sturgeon appeared at Edinburgh Fringe show aware of misogyny - but examples in her own ranks were missing - Hannah Brown

Nicola Sturgeon appeared at an Edinburgh Fringe show with quick wit and awareness of misogyny, but examples within her own ranks were missing.

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Met by a wave of applause, the First Minister walked on stage Ayesha Hazarika’s State of the Nation: Power, Politics and Tractors show on Saturday with a bounce in her step, seemingly relaxed with parliament in recess.

She was quick to bring her audience on side as she joked with the host and fellow panellists, including comedians Rosie Holt and Geoff Norcott.

Introducing the First Minister as the “Beyonce of Scottish independence”, Hazarika turned to the “absurd tractor in the room” – sex scandals.

Nicola Sturgeon speaking at Ayesha Hazarika: State of the Nation – Power, Politics and Tractors at the Edinburgh Fringe. Picture: Hannah Brown/National World

Inspired by MP Neil Parish’s resignation – after saying he accidentally watched porn in the Commons whilst looking at a tractor website – Hazarika’s Fringe offering promised to address the string of recent sex pest cases in Westminster.

A promising start yet one which soon dwindled as there were easy questions met with yet again more comments on the culture of misogyny in all areas of society, instead of a focus on particular party issues.

Hazarika did warn me, for an interview for Scotland on Sunday last month, she was not the “love child of Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley”, but this did not stop me from feeling slightly disappointed.

The First Minister was asked how she felt about Parish’s behaviour. She quipped: “He’s a Tory MP, what did people expect?”

A roar of laughter followed, perhaps to be expected when joking about Tories in Scotland.

However, the First Minister knew to bring back the focus on the seriousness of sexual assault.

"We are laughing here because it is a comedy show,” Ms Sturgeon said. “But men using porn is not that funny because it's the sharp end of something much more serious.”

And she is absolutely right. Although an absurd excuse for watching porn, there is something seriously insidious about the way society often excuses men from taking accountability through humour.

The First Minister even said women are made to make excuses for men when it comes to this behaviour. Another remark which landed well with the crowd and any woman who has felt the burden of this.

But was there any mention of any SNP baddies during the show? None at all and I could not help but feel slightly betrayed by this omission.

Hazarika briefly mentioned the SNP has had “a lot of scandals” but then went on to focus on how society could change the culture.

The First Minister was at ease as she knew no questions on disciplining real life “problems” in her party were going to crop up.

In fairly recent news, SNP MP Patrick Grady stood away from his party membership after he was found to have made a sexual advance to a teenage SNP member of staff.

During the show, the First Minister decided to focus on how society and men at large need to change their behaviour instead.

All valid points, but these comments are the equivalent of sharing an Instagram post about how to call out sexual assault, but then ignoring a friend who tells you they have been sexually harassed by someone you know.

We need a space to address the culture of sexism and misogyny, but we also need one where our politicians are frank about the particular problems in their own parties.

Hannah Brown, political reporter

Ayesha Hazarika’s State of the Nation: Power, Politics and Tractors, Gilded Balloon Teviot, August 13/14, 2pm


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