Nicola Sturgeon admitted ‘I wish I could change SNP’s name’

Nicola Sturgeon's SNP plans slammed by Galloway

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not oppose a second independence referendum if the SNP wins a majority in the election next month, Nicola Sturgeon has said. In an interview with the Guardian earlier this month, the Scottish First Minister insisted: “If people in Scotland vote for a party saying, ‘when the time is right, there should be an independence referendum’, you cannot stand in the way of that – and I don’t think that is what will happen.” Downing Street insiders suggested there may be tactical attempts to keep the inevitability of a referendum in play, but that the Prime Minister was staunchly against such a move.

The UK Government has quietly dropped the use of “once-in-a-generation” language around the referendum due to fears it may give Scottish voters who are still undecided about independence – but keen on Ms Sturgeon’s other policies – a licence to vote for the SNP if they believe there is no chance a referendum will be granted.

But Mr Johnson is said to be adamant in private that he will not be the Prime Minister who allows a referendum and the Conservatives will hammer home the message that holding such a poll during a pandemic would be deeply irresponsible.

As tensions between the two sides rise, unearthed reports shed light on a surprise admission Ms Sturgeon made about her party.

In 2017, Ms Sturgeon said she wished she could turn the clock back and change the SNP’s name.

The Scottish First Minister admitted the word national could be “hugely problematic” during a debate at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

She was speaking with Turkish author Elif Shafak, who told her the word had a “negative meaning” to her.

Ms Shafak said: “The word nationalism, for me personally, has a very negative meaning because I’ve seen how ugly it can get, how destructive it can become, how violent it can become and how it can divide people into imaginary categories and make them lose that cultural coexistence.”

She asked Ms Sturgeon: “Can nationalism ever be benign?

“Can it ever be a benevolent thing?”

Ms Sturgeon, who joined the SNP aged 16, said: “The word is difficult.

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“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, I would call it something other than the Scottish National Party.

“Now people say why don’t you change its name?

“Well that would be far too complicated.

“Because what those of us who do support Scottish independence are all about could not be further removed from some of what you would recognise as nationalism in other parts of the world.”

Ms Sturgeon added that there were two key characteristics of the Scottish independence movement that made it very different from other forms of nationalism.

She explained: “Firstly, that it doesn’t 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 over the future of the country as I do.

“And that is a civic, open, inclusive view of the world that is so far removed from what you would rightly fear.

“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’s about being outward-looking and internationalist.”

She added: “So the word is hugely, hugely problematic sometimes for those of us who …but Scottish independence is about self-government, it’s about running your own affairs and making your own mark in the world.

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“So yes words do matter but I think we can’t change the connotations that the word has in other parts of the world, what we have to do is just demonstrate through words of our own, through deeds, through actions, through how we carry ourselves, that we stand for something completely different to all of that.”

Ms Sturgeon’s predecessor, Alex Salmond, announced the creation of a new pro-independence party last month, which will contest the Scottish Parliament election.

The new Alba Party aims to stand at least 32 regional list candidates in the May 6 elections with the goal of winning a “supermajority” of pro-independence MPs at Holyrood.

The former first minister said he would be among the candidates who will stand for the Alba Party on regional lists.

In an online address, Mr Salmond declared: “Today, Alba is hoisting a flag in the wind, planting a saltire on a hill. In the next few weeks, we’ll see how many will rally to our standard.”

The initiative was dismissed officially by the SNP, which branded it an act of “self-interest” by the former First Minister, who has been embroiled in a bitter feud with Ms Sturgeon over her handling of sexual harassment allegations against him, which he was cleared of in court.

Ms Sturgeon is keen to maximise her party’s vote in the Scottish elections, in an effort to secure an overall majority and then push for a second referendum on independence.

While Mr Salmond insists Alba will not be a threat to the SNP – as it will not challenge the SNP in the constituency contests and would be a “list-only” party analysts say it could make it more difficult for the SNP to win a majority in its own right and thus weaken its hand against Mr Johnson.

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