A president-in-waiting? Sturgeon's 'state of the union' address is a sign of our times


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The Independent Online

Whether the Scottish people like it or not – and perhaps a majority do seem enamoured of the notion – their government is acquiring more and more of the trappings of a sovereign state. Not least of these will be the inaugural “state of the union” (if that’s not too ironic a description) address by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on YouTube. This is a self-consciously modern gesture that may do something to counter the Brigadoon image of her nation that many in the rest of Britain, and indeed the wider world, still believe in. In this, as in so many other respects, the letters SNP might as easily stand for Scottish Neophile Party.

Then again, it is not quite as fresh as it seems. A few years ago, just as his premiership seemed unsalvageable, Gordon Brown took to YouTube to offer his views on the MPs’ expenses scandal. His performance was characterised by a rictus grin, a facial tic that did nothing to enhance the sincerity of the broadcast. He did not see any boost in the polls after that one.

Earlier still, we had Tony Blair offering a weekly web broadcast at the high noon of his premiership. His media advisers made little secret of their frustration at how his “key messages”, to use the term fashionable at the time, were being filtered and distorted by press and broadcasters. That innovation did not last for long. Neither did David Cameron’s “WebCameron”.

Meanwhile, politicians’ efforts on Twitter have had mixed results – just ask Emily Thornberry. The British National Party leader, Nick Griffin, even tried to humanise his power-hungry band of neo-fascists with a YouTube cookery show (“you can have too much swede, unless you’re a goat”).

Ms Sturgeon does not seem the hubristic type, and she showed her presentational skills to fine effect in the election campaign. So let’s hope that hers is a more successful attempt to connect with the voters than previous efforts. We can’t wait to see her fireside chats with her people, but she may not prove a bigger draw than videos of sneezing cats.