LET’S say it loud and clear. Nicola Sturgeon’s speech at the SNP’s manifesto launch was excellent.

This has to be said, because you probably won’t hear or see that straightforward observation anywhere else in the press or media.

Let’s try to look on the bright side – this may be auld Britain’s only way of paying a compliment. Anything that disturbs the media’s current and total fascination with Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed unfitness to govern is just so many wrong leaves on the line. And there was such a forest of detail and analysis in the First Minister’s speech, it was just easier to ignore completely and concentrate on the only issue truly worrying Scots – the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 backed by SNP MPs.

I ken, that’s actually a pretty tasty prospect.

But let me not compound the error … Back to the speech.

READ MORE: Sturgeon sets out SNP's terms for election ‘alliance’ to keep Tories out

Sturgeon’s main focus wasn’t new – how could it be? But her analysis of Brexit and independence saw a subtle reshaping of old arguments. The SNP leader has skilfully re-framed the call for indyref2 powers into a democratic dilemma for every Scot, not just a personality-based, arm-wrestling competition for herself. “Who should decide Scotland’s future – the people who live here or Boris Johnson?” Only die-hard Tories would struggle with that stark choice. It was worth spelling out, for London-based reporters, that the SNP is the main challenger in Scottish Tory-held seats, so a vote for SNP candidates really might deny Boris Johnson a majority, and thus put the brakes on Brexit.

I was rather hoping Sturgeon might announce plans for legal action against Boris Johnson’s empty promise to “get Brexit done” if the Tories win. It’s a terrible lie, since any deal passed by a new parliament will only hasten the start of tough trade negotiations, which must be finished by December 2020 (impossible in the eyes of trade experts) to avert another No-Deal moment.

Brexit doesn’t herald the welcome return of “Rule Britannia” for most Scots, and the different political culture operating north of the Border clearly irks the bejeezus out of the British media. And yet a calm, non-defensive, non-hysterical, clear-headed case for Remain can only be made by a leader like Sturgeon, who stands safe in the knowledge that most Scots would vote Remain again, with an enhanced majority, at the drop of a hat. It’s the kind of Remain confidence the whole of Britain needs to hear.

But her speech went beyond Brexit, independence and clever ways to increase cash for the NHS in Scotland by forcing UK spending up to Scottish levels. Nicola Sturgeon elaborated on the SNP’s determination to push for longer maternity and paternity leave at Westminster (including 12 “use ’em or lose ’em” weeks reserved for dads.) This modernising policy was the subject of an unusually uplifting Call Kaye programme earlier this week, when the presenter was “overwhelmed” by the positive response from young Scots dads. “Old-man-oriented” news agendas simply cannot take such policy initiatives seriously, but young families throughout Scotland will have spotted the continuing priority given to young families facing Westminster austerity by the SNP. The paternity leave policy builds on the commitment to free childcare in 2014 which helped close the gender gap during the first independence referendum and helps continue Scotland’s speedy escape from the macho priorities of times past – with thanks to progressive Iceland and Sweden for proving the policy actually works. Perhaps Sturgeon’s most daring attempt was to walk a very fine policy line involved the oil and gas sector. The First Minister contrasted Norway’s Oil Fund with Westminster’s decades-long plunder of Scotland’s oil and gas reserves – with Jeremy Corbyn the latest to try to snatch a slice of the action.

Now it’s wrong for a climate-emergency-recognising First Minister to defend oil companies, so Sturgeon talked instead about funding the transition to green energy through a ring-fenced Net Zero Fund, into which oil and gas profits will be paid. Some 12% of the fund will create a new industrial strategy so that workers in oil-related trades in Aberdeen, Grangemouth and Shetland get jobs in the new renewables era and aren’t left behind.

The National:

IS that really Green enough? Almost certainly not, but whilst Westminster controls every aspect of oil and gas revenues, it’s a way to ensure that some oil revenues, belatedly, get spent in Scotland.

What viewers may remember for longer than any policy detail, though, was the First Minister’s manner. As the going’s got rough, her confidence just seems to have risen. Could it be that planning how to cancel Trident and push for indyref2 has given the her a spring in her step and a fresh focus? Either way, she was playing-it-for-laughs when a rookie reporter from Channel 5 asked her to spell out why Boris Johnson is unfit for office. It took a few minutes for gales of audience laughter to abate before the First Minister joked: “How long have we got? We don’t have the venue for the whole day.”

Did you get a whiff of all this from watching news reports?

Probably not.

For journalists with an unconscious and deep-seated investment in the status quo, the only serious political battle in Britain is between the Big Two, and the only scandal worth uncovering is the anti-semitic outlook of Jeremy Corbyn.

If a political leader steps beyond those favoured media narratives, she becomes lost in space. Yes, her lips may be moving, her audience reacting and her opinion poll share rising. But in the Tweedledee and Tweedledum world of Westminster, she makes no impact worth hearing.

Astonishingly, Emma Barnett’s show on BBC Radio 5 Live – “the home of live radio” – decided to record not broadcast the campaign launch of the UK’s third largest party as it happened, so she could interview the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. What was the big newsline out of that – “politicians who deliberately mislead the public should be called out”.


Eventually the whole of Sturgeon’s speech was broadcast, after which there were just two questions to political correspondent Chris Mason about the whole thing, including this one: “Don’t Scottish voters want to hear more about policy than the SNP’s opposition to Boris Johnson?”

Ya whit?!

Weren’t you listening?

Perhaps Ms Barnett was only picking up the Johnson/Corbyn obsession of the assembled Westminster press corps at the SNP campaign launch, because after Sturgeon’s speech, the media, with the honourable exception of BBC Scotland’s Brian Taylor who queried an item in the actual manifesto, focused almost entirely on the fitness of Jeremy Corbyn to govern.

AFTER the fourth identikit question, Sturgeon suggested SNP MPs would help keep Corbyn on the straight and narrow, restated her total opposition to anti-semitism and added: “I don’t choose the Labour leader – this is why I want more for Scotland than a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

Well said.

Outstanding performances by Scottish politicians don’t seem to sell newspapers – except this one. Carping, cynicism and an infinite world weariness are always in vogue whilst admiration, straightforward praise and acknowledgement of a job well done – even with caveats – are seen as signs of weakness in a hard-bitten newspaper world that cannot rest till it’s found a fatal mistake.

I must confess, I have succumbed to that temptation myself on occasions.

But yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon demonstrated, once again, why she’s Britain’s most convincing political leader.

That was the real story – the only news story. And it will filter through, no matter what perverse spin a despairing media tries to attach.