In our new regular Sunday feature, we ask Scots what were the 10 things that changed their life ...

1. My library card

The National:

MY library card was absolutely crucial. I loved visiting Irvine Library. Books have given me so much. They give you a sense of perspective, they give you a sense of escapism, relaxation. But they are a window to the world.

They take you to countries you have never been to, to periods of history that you have never experienced, they open your eyes to backgrounds and lives that you have never had yourself.

There is joy and education too. Everything. There were always books around when I grew up. Enid Blyton was probably one of the most formative figures of my early life. She gave me my love of reading. She was my first experience of being engrossed in a story, of being taken away from whatever reality was going on around me.

Favourite authors or books? I struggle to name one in terms of authors but I always say when asked that Sunset Song is my favourite book.

I very, very rarely re-read books because I feel there are so many books out there. I have a pile of books the height of me to read. And any time I go online or open a newspaper I see more books I want to read so I am making an exception and I am re-reading all the Muriel Spark books in that lovely Polygon series. When Philip Roth died, I realised I had not read much of his work so I have been reading him, which I have mixed views on.

I am not a connoisseur of music but I sometimes stick it on to clear my head. Duran Duran and Wham, that kind of stuff. I picked them for Desert Island Discs, for goodness sake.

2. A Nelson Mandela demo

The National:

THE first major political demo I went on was the Nelson Mandela 70th birthday one in Glasgow. That was important for me. I was 17, 18 at the time and those kind of injustices underlined and solidified my desire as a young girl to change the world.

The work at the law centre (in Drumchapel) is the sort of thing I would be doing now if I hadn’t gone into politics. The idea of using the laws as a tool of social justice appeals to me. Would I ever go back to law? I don’t know but I suspect not. What made me political at such a young age? I was a quite serious girl. I was intensely interested in current affairs. I was fascinated by the world around me. There was something in me that told me not just to be interested but to follow through on it. My parents weren’t political then, although they are now. But I found out after he died that my grandfather was a member of the SNP in the 1960s about the time of the Hamilton by-election (1967). We were going through his papers at my gran’s house after he died and we found a membership card in his name.

3. My modern studies teacher

The National:

MY modern studies teacher was hugely influential in my life and probably did more than anybody – outside my family – to instil not just an interest in politics but a confidence to follow through on it. He was Mr Kelso and I saw him after I became First Minister.

The BBC did a documentary on me and I went back to the school and he gave me one of my essays about nuclear weapons. It was weird reading it. It must have been second or third year. I totally recognised myself in it, absolutely.

On that particular issue, what struck me was I would say the same things today as I was saying then. I got into CND at school. It was not long before I joined the SNP, but CND came first. I was 16 when I joined the SNP, still at school.

That was certainly one of the things that made me. It was in the run-up to the 1987 election and I remember Gordon Wilson was fronting a party political broadcast on television. I phoned up to join and I have got his thing – and I have never said it to him and I am probably 100% wrong – that it was John Swinney who answered the phone.

4. Glasgow University

The National:

I WAS the first person in my family to go to university. It was always something I wanted to do and there was never any sense from my mum and dad that it was something I could not do.

For somebody coming from a working-class background not just going to Glasgow University but the law faculty … you are surrounded by privately educated people. For the first wee while it was a bit intimidating.

It was not until my first exam results were given that I said to myself: “I can cope with being here.” Up until then you say: “Am I really up to this?” I was coming from a state school and meeting privately educated people who exuded confidence in a way I was not familiar with.

But you get through. I was really unsure when I started in September but when the exams came at Christmas I realised I had done as well – possibly a bit better – than some of the people I had been intimidated by. That gave me the confidence to go on.

One of the only times I remember someone saying something along the lines of “that is maybe not something for the likes of you” was when a guidance adviser at school, when I told her that I wanted to be a lawyer, said pretty much: “People from this school don’t do that sort of thing.”

She suggested I consider teaching instead as if that was a lesser job. In my hopefully quiet, understated way, being told not to do something – that it was not quite for me – made me all the more determined to study law.

5. The Keys to Bute House

The National:

PEOPLE say the job of First Minister is mindboggling in its demands. I suppose it is, but when you step back from it, it’s manageable. Part of what makes it difficult is that it’s unpredictable. But that’s what makes it good.

It can be stressful. I’ve learned a huge amount about myself. The most important thing is that you develop a core sense in your own mind of what is right and what is wrong, not just in a moral sense.

You learn about your own values.

And you try to use that knowledge to try to steer your way through issues.

One day I will write screeds about what I have learned about myself. You learn there are things about yourself you have to change.

I have had to learn to be a bit more patient, I always want things done now, so I have learned to mellow that but still try to get things done as quickly as possible.

Since I have been First Minister, I have had to learn how to delegate more. I have had to learn how to lead a team, as I am a bit of a control freak.

It can be hard for me to let things be and trust people to get on with things. That is something, to be candid, that I have had to work at… People say I am resilient, and I suppose that’s true. I have a high tolerance to stress.

I think experience helps you build that resilience. There are things I can cope with in the political world that I would not have been able to deal with 10 years ago.

In politics, experience is an important commodity. It will allow you to have perspective.

6. My family

MY mother and father gave me self-belief. My mum was only 18 when I was born, my dad just a few years older, and yet they managed to give me this sense of belief that nothing was off limits to me. That is the most valuable thing any parent can give to a child.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t an overweening confidence. I wasn’t an overly confident girl or teenager. It was more an inner determination. I was not going to let people put me off, I was not going to let people tell me I couldn’t do things.

Looking back on my decision to study law or go into politics, I feel I always had a very firm sense of what I wanted to do and stuck to it. My sister [Gillian] and I are very close but very different, though the older we get I wonder how different we really are. I don’t think I have given enough back to my family. I would not necessarily say I have given anything back.

My parents are proud of what I have done, I know that. But they have given me much more than I have given them.

Because of the job I do, I don’t see them enough, spend enough time with them. I probably have a lot of making up to do with them all one day.

7. Independence

The National: Independence campaigners are doing their bit to ensure our new Sunday edition gets off to a flying start

THIS has been quite important to me (laughs).

I don’t remember deciding that I supported independence.

I just don’t remember thinking anything else.

The bottom line was: we should be independent.

People also ask when I wanted to go into politics. When I was at school, I wanted to be involved in politics but I didn’t think I would be a politician. This place [Holyrood] did not exist. Of course, this Parliament is something that has changed my life, too. I was 22 when I was a candidate, the youngest in the UK.

There was definitely a drive within me. I struggle to articulate and explain what it was, but it was within. It was simply something I wanted to do.

8. My friends

The National: Shona Robison

BECAUSE of the length of time I have been in politics a lot of my close friends are in politics. People like Shona Robison (pictured), for example. I have good friends from university and good friends from school.

I do not keep up with them as much as I should and that is entirely my fault. The older you get, the more important these friendships become to you.

What do I value in a friend? Trust, being able to be confident that they are never going to betray that. What do I offer them? I try to be as loyal as possible but I can’t pretend to offer them my undivided time and attention. Some of them remind me of that.

9. Marriage

The National:

MARRIAGE has given me a lot. I was one of those women from a young age who said marriage was just a piece of paper, I’ll never get married. It surprised me how much of a difference it did make. It gives me a sense of stability, security, that there is somebody there who knows knows the real you, instead of the person you read about in the newspapers.

There is a sense of loneliness in this job, very much so. There are things you can’t share, that you can’t always make someone understand. But Peter [Murrell] can tell when there is stuff on my mind that I can’t really talk to him about. He understands enough to know how to support me without necessarily being explicit about it all. He has an intuitive sense of what I need.

My place of refuge is my house in Glasgow. We don’t get to be there too often. But we spent our holidays there this summer. I sat reading books and watching Peter do the garden. That was better for me than going to a beach. I can put on my jeans, have a wee dance to Duran Duran, pour a glass of wine and read my book and order Peter around.

10. Fashion

The National:

I WOULDN’T choose to dress the way I do if I didn’t do the job I do. My mother always instilled in me the importance of looking smart and for women in politics it is important. It shouldn’t be, but it is. The media tear you apart. Left to my own devices I would just be in my jeans. My first expensive bit of clothing? Just before I left school I got a pair of Doc Martens. The first SNP conference I went to, that’s what people remembered about me. My niece said to me not long ago: “I want a pair of Doc Martens” I said: “That’s my girl.”