NICOLA Sturgeon has suggested she might not be the person to lead Scotland to independence. 

However, the First Minister insisted there was still “plenty in the tank,” and that she had no intention of standing down. 

It comes after New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shocked Kiwis on Thursday when she said she had "no more in the tank" to lead the country and would step down after five and a half years and not seek re-election.

READ MORE: OPINION: What Jacinda Ardern tells us about women in politics

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, the SNP leader was asked if she thought she would be the leader who's going take Scotland to independence.

She said: “I would like to think so. I think Scotland's going to be independent. Nobody would believe me if I say no, I'd rather it was somebody else. 

“But for me, who the leader is that takes Scotland to independence is less important than that Scotland completes its journey to independence.”

Asked how much was in her tank, Ms Sturgeon replied: “There's plenty in the tank at the moment.

“If I ever - I don't mean just on a single day, everybody wakes up some days and thinks they don't have enough in the tank - but if I ever reached the point, which she has clearly reached, and I think overall I just can't give the job everything it deserves then I hope I have the same courage she's had in saying okay, this is the point to go. 

“But just for the avoidance of all doubt. I don't feel anywhere near that right now. Nowhere near. Nowhere near.”

The show also asked the First Minister if education was still her number one priority, given the disruption caused by teachers taking industrial action.

Currently, the EIS are five days into a 16 day programme of rolling strikes, with schools in two local authorities closing every day. Another 22 days have been announced for the coming weeks, and union leaders have warned that action could soon take place in the next academic year. 

Teachers are seeking a 10 per cent pay hike but the Scottish Government’s offer is equivalent to 5% for the majority of workers, rising to 6.85% for the lowest paid. 

READ MORE: Scottish school strikes: Schools shut as teachers walk out over pay

Ms Sturgeon said: “We're not simply digging our heels in and refusing to negotiate. as we often see with the UK Government. We are seeking an agreement with teachers. Of course, COSLA, our local authority organisation is also part of the tripartite negotiations that we have with the teaching profession. 

“So teachers in Scotland are the best paid on average in the UK since 2018. Teachers have had more than a 20% increase in their salary. and right now are going to be being offered a pay rise for next year that is equivalent in terms of percentage uplift to that already accepted by janitors and, you know, dinner men and ladies in our school so we're trying to achieve fairness.”

Ms Sturgeon said she hoped there would be “some further compromise that reaches the kind of agreement that we've been able to reach with other groups of the public sector.”

The First Minister said she would like to pay all public sector workers more. She said many in Scotland were already paid more than their counterparts in the rest of the UK. 

HeraldScotland:

Ms Sturgeon was also pushed on the state of the health service in Scotland. 

 

She said: “The vast majority of patients in NHS Scotland get excellent care and very timely care, but recently too many patients have not had that. We're starting to see, thankfully, an easing of some of the winter pressures. So we've had an improvement over recent days in accident and emergency waiting times, for example. So we are working to support the health service through these pressures.”

READ MORE: One in five patients at A&E last week had to wait over eight hours

The First Minister claimed there had been improvement in the standard of over the 16 years the SNP has been in power, but, she added, the pandemic had “exacerbated issues.”

 

“I think any minister probably in any country across the world sitting here would would remind you that something quite significant happened between 2016 and today. A global pandemic that has put significant pressure on all parts of the health service.”

 

When pointed out that there were problems with the NHS before Covid, Ms Sturgeon said: “Yes, we had a situation where waiting times were increasing, but in the immediately pre-pandemic period and you know, I can furnish you with statistics, we were starting to reduce waiting times through a range of initiatives and funding that we were applying to that.

“I think it is perhaps not entirely fair to compare, as if we're comparing like with like in 2016 and today. 

 

“So if you take 12 hours, nobody should have to wait 12 hours in an accident in emergency and the vast majority of people don't wait anywhere near that.”