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Nicola Sturgeon has said the campaign for Scottish independence could learn from her “show not tell” leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.

The first minster said people had seen the Scottish government’s decision making with the powers it had.

She was speaking in an interview for Scotland on Sunday marking her 50th birthday.

Ms Sturgeon said devoting her attention to the Covid crisis was “liberating” from the usual party politics.

“I have tried in a way that I have never had to do with other issues, to strip the traditional rules of politics out of my decision-making,” she told interviewer Dani Garavelli.

“I haven’t at any point during the coronavirus weighed up decisions on the basis of: ‘Does this make independence more or less likely?”

However, Ms Sturgeon said recent opinion polls suggesting a rise in support for Scottish independence showed her government’s actions could have an indirect influence.

“The Yes movement possibly has something to learn about the fact that – as we have stopped shouting about independence, and shouting to ourselves about how we go about getting independence, and just focused on [dealing with the crisis] – it has allowed people to take a step back and say: ‘Well, actually that’s the benefit of autonomous decision-making’ and also ‘perhaps things would be better if we had a bit more autonomous decision-making,’ and to come to their own conclusions.”

Her comments, as she prepared to mark her 50th birthday on Sunday, follow criticism from some sections of the ‘Yes’ movement that her approach is overly cautious and that a “Plan B” is required in the face of the UK government’s opposition to another referendum.

Former SNP MSP Dave Thompson has announced plans to launch a new independence party which would stand only for the regional list seats in next year’s Holyrood election, in an attempt to increase the number of pro-independence MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon insisted that she wants the SNP “united” ahead of the 2021 election and said: “History is littered with examples of political parties that start talking to each other as opposed to the public. I don’t think that’s where the SNP is generally.

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Nicola Sturgeon said she had been “fully immersed” in dealing with the Covid crisis

Asked about other pro-independence groups standing against her party, Ms Sturgeon said: “You can take it as read that, come the election, I will be saying to people: ‘Vote SNP with your first vote, and vote SNP with your regional vote as well,’ and I will be pointing to the fact that the one time we did win a majority was when we maximised the constituency and the regional vote.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Ms Sturgeon also spoke of her apprehension at approaching the menopause which she agreed still remained a “taboo” subject in society.

Asked if she was worried that any symptoms could be perceived as a “weakness”, she replied: “Yes, I think that’s part of the stigma.

“For me, there’s still a sense that I’m not sure what it’s going to be like over the next few years. It shouldn’t be as big a mystery to those of us about to go through it, but it is.”

On reaching her milestone birthday she said: “I am a bit perplexed as to how, suddenly, I’m 50.

She said the one request she has made to her husband and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell was to have a walk on the South Ayrshire coast in her father’s hometown.

“The only thing I have said to Peter I really want to do is go for a walk along the beach in Dunure. I spent a lot of my childhood there because it’s where my dad grew up and where my grandparents lived until they died,” she said.

On Sunday Ms Sturgeon posted on Twitter: “To say I’m overwhelmed by all the cards, flowers and good wishes I have received from across the country for my (ahem) 50th birthday, would be an understatement…so I just wanted to pop on here briefly (before hopefully staying away for the rest of the day!) to say thank you.”

On Sunday morning, her husband posted a picture of a large, helium-filled balloons shaped in the number 50, captioned “Wakey Wakey NicolaSturgeon”.

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