We visited Nicola Sturgeon’s constituency the day after her resignation - here’s what the community had to say

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We visited Govanhill the day after Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation to get the word on the street from the First Minister’s constituents

It’s a drab, overcast, subdued afternoon, just another day in Govanhill. Walking the streets there’s no immediate sign that the shock announcement from their MSP Nicola Sturgeon yesterday has had any immediate effect here, in contrast to the frenzied reaction at Holyrood and Westminster.

The southside neighbourhood is certainly a diverse one, stepping up the stairs from Queen’s Park station and on to Victoria Road in the drizzling rain there are obvious visual cues.

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Shops are skirted by baskets of colourful fruits and vegetables - everything from beige Scottish potatoes to bright oranges and bananas. Roma women hurry past pushing prams, old couples peer into charity shop windows, and friends meet and laugh loudly on street corners.

In fact, Glasgow Southside is one of Scotland’s most eclectic constituencies. Taking in the gated communities of Pollokshields as well as Ibrox and Govan, the cradle that held the working-class shipyard workers whose work turned Glasgow into the second city of the British empire.

It takes in Strathbungo, where the terraced houses are one of many reminders of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s lasting architectural legacy in Glasgow.

It draws in elements of the Gorbals - the melting pot that fostered communities of Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigration throughout the 19th and 20th century.

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Community and change is at the heart of Govanhill. This is clear from the many charities and social enterprises that work in the constituency.

Around Victoria Road alone you can find the Glasgow office of Al Khair Foundation, an international Muslim NGO, the South East Integration Network, Glasgow Playscheme Association, South Seeds, the community newsroom of both local magazine Greater Govanhill and national investigative outlet The Ferret and the Sarwar Foundation.

We spoke with an organiser from Govanhill Baths, a hub at the heart of Govanhill that is emblematic of the community spirit of Govanhill.

The grass-roots activist-based organisation began when the community came together to save their local swimming pool - a campaign which was championed by Nicola Sturgeon.

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Since their successful campaign, they have continued activism to continue delivering health, wellbeing, arts, environmental, and heritage projects for the community.

A spokesperson for the group said:”Although we may not have agreed with all of the First Minister’s politics, we are so grateful for the support and commitment she has offered to Govanhill Baths Community Trust.

“She has been a keen supporter of our cause from the beginning of our journey, from occupying the Govanhill Baths to speaking at our annual Govanhill International Festival. We believe it is so important that our First Minister was at the forefront of the anti-racism and trans rights fights, because our vision of Scotland is an inclusive place for everyone.

“Govanhill Baths Community Trust is a grassroots organisation supported and developed through active involvement by members of the local community.

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“It is an activist-driven organisation which acts as a community anchor and supports development and capacity building for local organisations. The Trust is responsible for running community wellbeing, arts, environmental and heritage projects, as well as education and training.

“We also run a social enterprise project and upcycling project Rags to Riches and the People’s Pantry, a membership-based project aimed at reducing food poverty and food waste.”

A view over Glasgow Southside from Queen’s ParkA view over Glasgow Southside from Queen’s Park
A view over Glasgow Southside from Queen’s Park | Getty Images

Other hubs of community can be found all over Govanhill - from Italian cafes to African restaurants and Turkish kebab shops - the door almost never stops swinging on these establishments from the constant coming and going.

This is to say that Govanhill is a caring and vibrant community, that’s been under the remit of Nicola Sturgeon since the creation of the constituency back in 2011.

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This is not to say that the Glasgow Southside constituency hasn’t faced any issues. Historically, and still today, the constituency has had problems with slum landlords, vermin infestations, as well as sporadic refuse collection.

A short three years after Nicola Sturgeon took over the new district of Glasgow Southside, the MSP’s attention was divided in November of 2014 when she was appointed to the role of First Minister from her deputy position under Alex Salmond.

Govanhill is a microcosm of Glasgow Southside - with 52 languages and 32 languages represented by 18,000 people living within one square mile of each other.

It’s the largest home for the city’s Roma population - one of the most stigmatised ethnic groups in the world. Romani people are those who are exploited most by rogue, slum landlords in the city - cramming large families into single rooms in mouldy properties that are falling apart at the seams.

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Outside of Glasgow, the constituency was largely ignored. That was until Nicola Sturgeon took the helm, in which commentators from both the media and the public were quick to demonise the constituency. With stories and social media posts likening the state of Govanhill to the First Minister’s ability to lead.

Stepping down from her leadership role, Nicola Sturgeon promised in her announcement of resignation on February 15 that she would remain the constituency’s elected representative “at least until the next election”.

We visited the constituency the day after Nicola Sturgeon resigned from her role as First Minister (February 16) to find out what the public thought of their MSP.

Most residents were more than happy to speak on camera - and all of those who we spoke to held a respect for the former First Minister, although many were unsure what the future may hold now for the constituency and what the wider implications will be for the country. To see what people had to say - watch our video at the top of the page.

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