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Party darling woos classroom hearts

A SALMOND acolyte, a nippy sweetie who could do with lightening up for the television audience, a pragmatist, a grafter who should say no more often, but above all a rising star, according to observers.

People around Nicola Sturgeon, SNP vice-convener for publicity, who doubles as education spokesperson, accept they are dealing with a formidable political figure. At the age of 28, she presents a youthful face for the party that enjoys a strong following among young people.

Along with several other equally tender rivals, Ms Sturgeon is tipped as a possible successor to party leader Alex Salmond. But as racing tipster Salmond knows, forecasts are notoriously unreliable.

Ms Sturgeon repeatedly wins internal elections but has yet to make the breakthrough at the polls. She has twice failed to capture Westminster seats in Glasgow and last time out was a banker to take Govan but fell to Labour's national swing. The Scottish parliament seems certain to offer a better bet.

A former pupil of Greenwood Academy, Irvine, Ms Sturgeon studied law at Glasgow University before entering private practice. She is now offering advice in Drumchapel law centre when not fielding calls from the media and party headquarters.

Ms Sturgeon is viewed as an intellectual force, well able to fulfil the rebuttal role demanded of her. But in post for the past year she has often appeared more comfortable on broad political matters rather than detail.

She places restoring teacher morale at the heart of SNP policy, which will finally emerge next spring before the elections.

"We have got to get away from teacher bashing, the top-down approach. That is fundamental. We are trying to build a consensus and people are crying out for a bit of stability. They want to be given time for changes to settle down, " she says.

In the meantime, there is the battle of the press release with Helen Liddell to focus on.

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