Election campaigning has been very different during pandemic, says Sturgeon

Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor
·2 min read

Coronavirus has meant this year’s Holyrood election campaign has been like no other – with the pandemic ensuring Nicola Sturgeon has been busy with two jobs for the duration.

As SNP leader, Ms Sturgeon has travelled the country in support of her party’s candidates and speaking – in a socially distanced way – to voters.

But as First Minister she has also been the person responsible for the Scottish Government’s ongoing efforts to tackle coronavirus.

Nicola Sturgeon greets a supporter with an elbow bump on the campaign trail in North Berwick (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon greets a supporter with an elbow bump on the campaign trail in North Berwick (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Describing the run-up to the 2021 vote as “very, very different”, Ms Sturgeon said: “Normally during an election campaign the business of government pretty much stops, apart from essential things.

“That is very different because there is one piece of essential business which can’t just stop, which is the response to Covid.

“So every day just now I am not just on the campaign trail, I am having to concentrate and focus on Covid data, and the decisions the Government is having to take and making sure I continue to oversee the Government response to Covid.”

Nicola Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon, pictured during a campaign stop in Renfrew, said it has been strange not to be able to ‘press the flesh and chap doors’ during this election campaign (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Social distancing requirements and other Covid regulations mean that “on a very practical level, the campaign for me feels different to the 2016 campaign”, Ms Sturgeon added.

She said Covid-19 makes it more difficult to “really engage properly with people, to press the flesh and chap doors and do all the things I really enjoy doing”.

She recalled being out in her Glasgow Southside constituency early in the campaign, before politicians were allowed to speak to voters on the doorstep.

The SNP leader said: “I was in my own constituency doing a bit of leafletting in the middle of the day, and it struck me that in a normal campaign I would have been out at that time of the day chapping doors, and nobody would have been in, because everybody would have been at work.

Nicola Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon met eight-month-old Habibba Hassan while campaigning in her Glasgow Southside constituency last month (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Whereas last week I could see everybody through the windows but I couldn’t chap any of these doors, it was really frustrating.”

When she has been out and about on the campaign trail, she has been careful to keep her distance as much as possible from voters who want to speak to her.

Ms Sturgeon said: “It feels different and I wish, really wish, we could be campaigning in the normal way, but it is what it is and we have to find different ways of engaging.”