NICOLA Sturgeon turned up in Stirling, one of Scotland’s key SNP battlegrounds, yesterday, looking to give her SNP candidates a big boost ahead of the local elections next week, and as The National Roadshow arrived in the city.

Crowds of supporters were there to greet her, waving Saltire flags and banners and playing bagpipes, as she arrived outside the Burgh Coffeehouse in the city centre to have a chat with the SNP candidates who are pinning their hopes on taking over the administration of Stirling Council after five years of Labour and Tory coalition rule.

The First Minister took time out to meet supporters, including two schoolgirls waving flags, Cerys Teven, 10, and her friend Fearne Boulton, nine, who were delighted when they got a hug and their photos taken with the First Minister. The girls also got a shot of sitting on one of the YesBiker’s motorbikes.

Cerys, from Riverside Primary School in Stirling, lost her father Michael, 48, very recently, and was invited along by a member of the Yes Stirling group to meet Sturgeon yesterday, the day after his funeral.

Cerys said: “It was really cool and exciting to meet Nicola Sturgeon. I didn’t know there would be cameras flashing everywhere. I thought she was really nice and kind, and pretty too. It has really made our day and made us feel really good.

Sturgeon also spent time with community councillor and Stirling West candidate Morag Fulton, who, despite suffering from ill-health and being wheelchair bound, has been out canvassing relentlessly since the candidates were announced in February.

Fulton said: “I have met Nicola a couple of times. It was great to see her here in Stirling. It gave me a real boost to keep going, especially this week as I suffer from chronic pain and it has been very exhausting. She is so down to earth and warm. She is a real person who really cares.”

She also made tea for a group of SNP supporters in the cafe, talked to locals and agreed to a number of selfies.

Sturgeon said Stirling was one of the key battlegrounds in the forthcoming local election and said it was always “a joy” to campaign in the city.

She added: “I have had a great response here in Stirling today. This is a constituency that is well represented both in the Scottish Parliament and in Westminster by the SNP.

“The message is clear: every vote and every seat that the Tories win in this election is giving them more ability to do whatever they want to Scotland and think they can get away with it.

“We know the damage the Tories do to our economy and our society. If you don’t want to see the Tories with a free hand to deliver more cuts, more austerity and more damaging social policies then make sure there are strong SNP voices at Westminster and in our parliament to take key decisions for Scotland.

“Stirling is always one of the key battlegrounds in Scottish politics and I want to see, not just in Stirling, but across the country, strong SNP councils delivering stronger public services and supporting local economies.

“We don’t want, in this election, to see council services falling into the hands of the Tories because we know from experience what that means. It means cuts to public services and Tories prioritising tax cuts for the best off in society at the expense of our public services.

“We don’t take any votes for granted but it is only the SNP that can form an administration here that will protect public services. In so many parts of the country we know that Labour’s game plan is to angle for coalitions with the Tories. The risk in Stirling and in other parts of the country is that either by Tory votes or Labour coalitions with them we allow public services to fall into the hands of the Tories. It is always a joy to come to Stirling to campaign, there is such great support.”