Tyne & Wear

Sunderland roots of SNP's Nicola Sturgeon

Arthur Street
Image caption In the early 1900s the area was home to shipyard workers and coal miners

Nicola Sturgeon's family has roots in the North East, highlighting the close-knit relationship the area has with its neighbours north of the border. But will the region benefit from the rise of Scotland's first minister and the SNP or will it be overshadowed?

A row of cottages in Arthur Street, Ryhope, Sunderland, was once home to shipyard workers and miners, sharing an industrial heritage similar to parts of Scotland.

The daughter of Nicola Sturgeon's great-grandfather, shipwright Joseph Mill, was born in the street in 1920.

Margaret Sturgeon (whose maiden name was Mill) married Robert Sturgeon, a gardener from Ayr, at St Paul's Parish Church, just around the corner from Arthur Street in 1943.

She went on to become the grandmother of the SNP leader and the family would eventually move back to the south west of Scotland, where the now-first minister was born in 1970.

Image caption Legal documents show Nicola Sturgeon's grandmother was born in Ryhope

Sunderland, like many parts of Scotland, is steeped in industrial heritage, and Nicola Sturgeon's family roots in the north east of England simply reinforces the idea that these two parts of the UK share many cultural and historical ties.

'Common cause'

But the rise of the Scottish National Party north of the border has left many in the North East and Cumbria questioning the region's future relationship with Scotland.

"The North East shares a lot in common with Scotland and there's a common cause to be made with our neighbours," says Jonathan Blackie, a visiting professor at Northumberland University.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon has "played a blinder", according to a Cumbria business leader

"But given the current political situation it's difficult to see how we can thrive by working together, when there are so many things pulling us apart."

The new political situation that he refers to is to the SNP now having 56 MPs at Westminster.

'Real challenge'

David Cameron has also said he will devolve more power to the Scottish Parliament as recommended by the Smith Commission, which makes those living on the border nervous.

"Nicola Sturgeon has played a blinder, she's put Scotland in a position where it can't get loose," says Rob Johnston, the chief executive of the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce.

"It's not the number of SNP MPs, it's the fact that Scotland is now speaking with one voice.

"They can attract money and investment north of the border and that presents a real challenge for Cumbria."

In the Scottish Independence referendum 67% of people in the Scottish Borders constituency voted to maintain the Union, making it an area that many thought the SNP would find hard to break through in at the general election.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Rather aptly, Arthur Street is close to Scotland Street

However Calum Kerr took the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency from the Liberal Democrats with a majority of 328 votes.

He said: "I actually think there are many parallels between what I want for the South of Scotland to what people in the North of England want.

"They want their voices to be heard and they want powers to make a difference to their region.

"If I can build a distinctive voice for the South of Scotland, people in the North of England should support that, and in fact work with me because they will also feel the benefits."

To the south of Calum Kerr's constituency sits Northumberland, the English county with the highest number of castles, a lasting testament to the fractious historical relationship that the north of England has had with its Scottish neighbours.

The differences on the border are no longer territorial, but the rise of the SNP is certainly creating new political and economic tensions.

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