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Nicola Sturgeon: Leader of Scottish independence battle
[EDINBURGH] Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has put her lifetime dream of independence centre of her party's election campaign, but critics say it is an obsession that has blinded her to other key issues.
Since emerging onto the national stage during the 2015 election campaign, Ms Sturgeon has earned a reputation as a combative street fighter, frequently clashing with Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit and Scotland's role in the negotiations.
Her leadership helped the SNP sweep 56 of Scotland's 59 seats in 2015, easing the pain of defeat in the previous year's independence referendum.
Ms Sturgeon, 46, said at the time that the vote was a "once in a generation event", but Britain's vote to leave the European Union in June 2016 - a decision opposed by most Scots - has raised the spectre of another referendum.
Unhappy with Mrs May's tough stance on Brexit negotiations, Ms Sturgeon in March announced that the Scottish government would seek authority to hold a second independence referendum before Britain is set to leave the EU in 2019.
Mrs May accused Ms Sturgeon of playing "games" and said the SNP had "tunnel vision" over independence.
Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader said Ms Sturgeon "wakes up every day thinking of a way to engineer another referendum", adding that she was neglecting key issues such as child poverty as a result.
A recent poll showed that only 37 per cent of Scots wanted a second referendum, but Ms Sturgeon remains popular and her party is expected to retain around 50 of its seats.
Her profile has also gone global, with Forbes naming her as one of the world's 100 most powerful women.
Queen of Scots
A former lawyer labelled "Queen of Scots" by some media, Ms Sturgeon cuts a distinctive figure with her short hair and colourful tailored suits, and argues for socially conscious policies she says Labour has left behind.
She was born in the industrial town of Irvine, southwest of Glasgow, in 1970 to an electrician father and a mother who remains active in local SNP politics.
She joined the SNP aged 16, becoming politicised in the 1980s under Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, widely disliked in Scotland.
She studied law at Glasgow University and stood unsuccessfully for the House of Commons in 1992, aged just 21, before starting her career as a lawyer.
When the Scottish Parliament was created in 1999, Ms Sturgeon entered major league politics as one of its first wave of lawmakers.
Her nickname at that stage was "nippy sweetie" - Scots slang for a pushy person.
Since 2007, the SNP has been in power in Scotland and Ms Sturgeon, married to the party's chief executive Peter Murrell, was health minister for much of that time.
Her mother Joan - herself an SNP politician - once joked about her daughter's hard-working tendencies: "She can relax - there's always one eye on the phone, but I think she's fairly relaxed."
"The phone is never switched off - many of my family can vouch for that."
Ms Sturgeon was put in charge of the party's campaign for the 2014 independence referendum.
After 55 per cent of voters rejected independence, Ms Sturgeon took over as SNP leader from her mentor Alex Salmond, who had dominated the party for a quarter of a century, becoming Scotland's first female leader.
In her spare time, Ms Sturgeon admits to relaxing with a glass of red wine and watching reality tv talent show X-Factor.