Day young Nicola was transf ixed by her ‘Mr Gadget Man’ geek




dmg media (UK)

The Party’s Over

WHEN they first met, she was an eager teenage activist while he was a party staffer, a fervent supporter already working for the cause. More than three decades have passed since that first fateful encounter between a young Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell and during that time their personal and political lives have been inextricably bound together. Having bonded over their dreams of an independent Scotland, they fell in love and later married, while rising, seemingly unstoppably, through the party ranks to become the dominant figures of the Nationalist movement – and one of the most powerful and influential couples in British politics. And if it’s hard to imagine what the party will look like without Ms Sturgeon as leader and without Mr Murrell as chief executive, it is perhaps even harder to imagine their lives together minus the SNP. Ms Sturgeon joined the party as a teenager and met Mr Murrell in 1988 at a youth camp when she was just 18 and was volunteering at the constituency office of Alex Salmond in Banff and Buchan. Mr Murrell, who was in his mid-twenties at the time, later recalled: ‘One of my first memories of Nicola is when she appeared on a Grampian Television programme. She must have been about 18. I remember being impressed by her political skills, even at that early stage. ‘The funny thing is, I’d probably organised it. ‘I was working for Alex Salmond in his Banff and Buchan constituency and the request probably came into our office in Peterhead, but I don’t remember recommending her.’ He added: ‘The party used to hold youth weekends in Portsoy in Aberdeenshire and Nicola would come to those with other members of the Young Scottish Nationalists, but we weren’t close. ‘We would maybe bump into each other once a year at a conference or a meeting.’ For her part, Ms Sturgeon could be forgiven for failing to fall under his spell immediately. She remembered: ‘My first memory of Peter, from the 1980s, was that he was Mr Gadget Man. He wore a belt with all his gizmos on it, including a very early Psion organiser. ‘I was transfixed. How can anybody walk about with that attached to his belt?’ Ms Sturgeon went on to graduate from the University of Glasgow with a law degree and worked as a solicitor before she became an MSP in the south side of Glasgow. It wasn’t until they campaigned together for the 2003 Holyrood election that something changed. At the time, Mr Murrell was living with his girlfriend Jane McEwan in Livingston, while Ms Sturgeon shared a flat in Glasgow with her boyfriend Stuart Morrison. She recalled: ‘I was out on the road when I wasn’t in the office with Peter, so when we weren’t together we were on the phone. ‘Then, after the election, the necessity to be in constant communication was over. ‘That’s when I thought, well, I want to be in constant communication. It was the point we both realised there might be something else.’ Quietly, the respective partners were dropped. In the years that followed,