Nicola Sturgeon comes out as a Sunderland fan – but makes UK City of Culture allegiances clear

Nicola Sturgeon addresses North East business leaders
Nicola Sturgeon addresses North East business leaders

Nicola Sturgeon has come clean on where her North East footballing allegiances lie.

The Scottish First Minister has confirmed she favours the red and white of Sunderland AFC after spending many happy holidays in Ryhope with her grandmother Margaret.

If I was to follow my family footballing loyalties, it would certainly put me on the Sunderland side of the divide.

Nicola Sturgeon

But she made it clear that her loyalties lie north of the border when it comes to the race to be named UK City of Culture 2021.

Sunderland and Paisley are among the short-listed candidates for the title.

She was addressing the North East England Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leaders’ Lunch at the Hilton hotel in Gateshead during a whistle-stop visit to the region today.

“If I was to follow my family footballing loyalties, it would certainly put me on the Sunderland side of the divide,” said Ms Sturgeon.

“But when it comes to the city that should be City of Culture, of course I have to vote for Paisley rather than Sunderland but my grandmother would probably even that up if she were here today.”

She was outlined the critical role played by transport links during her speech and announced plans to consult on improvements that would cut the travel time between the North East and Scotland: “There are more than 50,000 vehicles cross the border each and every single day and more than 15,000 people every week who travel by train between Scotland and the North East of England,” she said

“These links are providing vital connections for families, businesses, visitors and trade.

“For example, access to Port of Tyne is crucial for Scotland’s exports to Europe and the wider world.

She told the group Scotland and the North East had much in common, with both having suffered disproportionately from the loss of traditional industries. It was vital to ensure UK industrial policy benefited every part of the country and Scottish devolution could serve as an example to the North East.

And she highlighted concern about the Government’s handling of Brexit, which she will raise with Theresa May next week.