by Colin Campbell
DESPITE all the power she has at the moment – or maybe because of it – Nicola Sturgeon looks more tired and strained than she has ever done and almost seems to be ageing by the month.
And little wonder. Record increases in virus infections on a daily basis are coupled with enormous pressure to effectively disperse the vaccine and the burden rests squarely on her shoulders.
She would need to be superhuman not to struggle to cope with these responsibilities and for them not to have a visible effect on her.
And yet in some spheres she is all-powerful and in others she is impotent.
If the choice were hers and hers alone, she would surely cancel the May Scottish Parliamentary elections and postpone them to a later date.
These elections are only five months away and for every day of that period, seven days a week, her attention should be focussed on only one thing – getting out the lifesaving vaccine.
If she initiated a vote in the Scottish Parliament to do that it would pass with overwhelming support. Every right-thinking person knows where priorities lie at the moment and they do not include bickering over politics.
She has said the aim is to have everyone over 50 vaccinated by May. And yet she also faces the distraction of an election where the onus is on her to ensure the SNP wins a pro-independence majority combined with the support of their Green Party acolytes.
But she also knows her powers to do the sensible thing and cancel the election – which would be acclaimed by the vast majority of people across the country – are virtually non-existent.
The fanatics and zealots within the nationalist movement would go crazy if she even hinted at the possibility of her doing that.
It takes more than the worst health crisis in a century for them to stand back and look at the bigger picture.
The First Minister would become a target of vicious allegations that she was dodging and prevaricating and selling out the cause for independence yet again.
If the pandemic was supplemented by an outbreak of bubonic plague there would be no sympathy for her predicament among those who believe the need for mass vaccination trails far behind the need for “independence, NOW!”.
And there are too many of these obsessives in the nationalist movement for Nicola Sturgeon to ignore, if she wants to stay in her job.
The irony is that if she did postpone the elections the chances are she would win a degree of admiration from undecided voters that would – though it pains me to say it – actually increase support for the SNP.
But the maniacal zealots can’t see that. In their eyes such an act would be traitorous.
Nicola Sturgeon is not superhuman but she is expected to spend every waking hour between now and May trying to save lives through effectively dispersing the vaccine while at the same time overseeing some kind of half-baked election campaign.
Nationalists who demand that she does both are placing an impossible burden on her. If she looks strained now all the make-up available to her won’t be able to disguise a haggard and exhausted woman near breaking point five months from now.