Who is Nicola Sturgeon? Everything you need to know about the SNP leader ahead of the general election

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, right, waves to SNP supporters during a visit to Dalkeith, Scotland, while on the General Election campaign trail, Wednesday Dec. 4, 2019. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

Nicola Sturgeon has been a mainstay in British politics for years, but how much do you really know about her and what she believes in?

It’s five years since she became the first woman First Minister of Scotland, with an aim to make the country healthier, wealthier and fairer.

As Britain prepares for another general election, read on to discover her route into power, views on Brexit, Scottish Independence and all about the Scottish National Party (SNP).

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Nicola Sturgeon’s early life

Nicola Sturgeon was born in the North Ayrshire town of Irvine in 1970 and is the eldest of three daughters born to her mother, a dental nurse, and father, an electrician.

She joined the SNP at the age of just 16, after being inspired by the forceful Margaret Thatcher.

She told BBC Radio Four’s Women’s Hour: "Thatcher was prime minister, the economy wasn't in great shape, lots of people around me were looking at a life or an immediate future of unemployment and I think that certainly gave me a strong sense of social justice and, at that stage, a strong feeling that it was wrong for Scotland to be governed by a Tory government that we hadn't elected."

From left: SNP Deputy Convenor John Swinney, Vice Convenor Nicola Sturgeon, Leader Alex Salmond and Chief Executive Mike Russell after a press conference held the day after Scottish parliamentary elections in 1999. (Photo by Ben Curtis - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Ms Sturgeon went on to study law at Glasgow University before working as a solicitor at the city's Drumchapel Law Centre.

In Britain’s 1992 general election, she became Scotland’s youngest parliamentary candidate at the age of 21.

Her entry into full-time politics emerged aged 29, when she was elected to the new Holyrood parliament as a Glasgow regional MSP in 1999.

For the next eight years she was a frontbench opposition spokeswoman, working to hold the Labour-Lib Dem coalition government to account.

Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon (R), and Ochil & South Perthshire candidate John Nicolson (L) pose for a photograph with an SNP decorated cake on November 6, 2019, at the start of the General Election campaign (Photo by Andy Buchanan / AFP) (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Read more: Why is the UK having a general election in 2019?

When did she become leader of the SNP?

In 2004 the SNP was characterised by in-fighting and negative press of a leadership challenge. John Swiney quit as leader, and the chance to run on a joint ticket with Alex Salmond as his deputy meant Ms Sturgeon officially joined party ranks.

She was able to improve her profile as the SNP’s “Holyrood leader” and interviewed Labour’s Jack McConnell at first minister's questions every week.

When the SNP won the 2007 election, Ms Sturgeon became Scotland’s deputy first minister and health secretary. She oversaw popular SNP pledges such as the reversal of A&E closures and removing prescription charges.

Nicola Sturgeon said “Brexit is far from a done deal even if Boris Johnson was to get his deal passed, that would only be the beginning – not the end – of trade talks with the EU. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Then, in the 2011 election, the SNP won an outright majority, enabling the party to fulfil its promise of holding an independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon claimed the mould for Scottish politics had been broken, and said the SNP was "in touch with the country it served".

The result of the independence referendum in 2014 was a disappointment, with 55% voting to remain in the UK. Nevertheless, Ms Sturgeon was judged to have run an effective campaign, and when SNP leader Alex Salmond resigned, she took his place as Scotland’s first minister and leader of the SNP in October 2014.

Read more: How many seats do you need to win the general election?

What are the SNP’s key policies?

The SNP describe themselves as a centre left and social democratic party - and their main goal is for Scotland to become independent of the UK.

Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the launch of the party's General Election campaign on Friday Nov. 8, 2019. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

Their policies include free older care for people aged over 65, an investment of over £150 million over the next five years into mental health services, the abolishment of the bedroom tax, a £5 billion programme of investment in Scotland’s railways and an expansion in childcare provision.

The SNP have established a Rural Housing Fund committed to provide £25 million over the next three years to build new, affordable homes in rural Scotland.

Read more: When do we find out the result of the general election?

What are Nicola Sturgeon’s views on Brexit?

Ms Sturgeon was a vocal advocate for the ‘Remain’ campaign in the run-up to the June 23 Brexit referendum, and 62 per cent of Scots agreed with her. After the result, she unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate individual trade and immigration protocols for Scotland with the then UK Brexit secretary David Davis.

Ms Sturgeon was outraged by former Prime Minister Theresa May’s “hard Brexit” strategy, believing Scotland’s interests are best served by remaining in the EU.

In her speech to the SNP’s spring conference in mid-March 2017, she said: “Scotland isn’t full up. If you are as appalled as we are at the path this Westminster government is taking, come and join us. Come here to live, work, invest, or study.”

Last month, she shared an open letter urging Remainers to back the SNP "to help Scotland escape from Brexit" as the 2019 general election campaign begins.

Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon launches the party's election campaign bus, featuring a portrait of herself, for the final week of the SNP's General Election campaign, Thursday Dec. 5, 2019. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

Her prominent anti-Brexit voice coincides with her desire for Scotland to become an independent nation.

In October 2019, speaking at the the Scottish National Party conference in Aberdeen, she vowed to request a Scottish Independence Referendum via a section 30 order of the Scotland Act 1998, to remove Scotland from "the politics of Johnson and Trump."

She said: "Here in the UK, we have a prime minister who has acted unlawfully, and shown no concern for the human consequences of his disastrous Brexit policy.

“Be in no doubt, we are winning the case for independence.Scotland is rich enough, strong enough and big enough to take our place among the proud, independent nations of the world.”

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