It was Wednesday of February recess. A time to reflect, regather and take stock. That’s how many political journalists will have been feeling when they woke up, at least.

But a few hours is a long time in politics.

All too quickly what many expected to be a regular day turned into one of the most seismic moments in Scottish political history.

Word of a last-minute press conference at Bute House hit inboxes. Reporters began asking each other hastily, “she can’t, can she?”.

But indeed, just a few minutes later, it emerged the end was nigh for Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister.

Despite the pressure Nicola Sturgeon had fallen under in recent weeks amid a crisis in the NHS, a row over transgender prisoners, a constitutional debate after the UK Government blocked the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and a police investigation into potential criminality involving SNP fundraising, no one expected her to go.

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Only a few weeks ago she said she had plenty left in the tank, but it became evident that that few weeks had completely drained that tank.

Many journalists will have walked into the room rubbing their hands hoping that the transgender row or the occasional opinion poll had led her to breaking point.

But in what was a poignant few minutes, it became clear it was not one particular issue that had left her thinking she had to resign her post in perceived disgrace or because she had lost support, but it was because of what she described as the “brutality” of politics that she felt left her with no other option.

She spoke about how she no longer felt she could “reach across the divide” in Scottish politics because she felt people had put her in their love or hate boxes, and how she felt people’s fixed opinions of her were creating a “barrier” to reasoned debate.   

The National: Nicola Sturgeon waved goodbye to her role as FM Nicola Sturgeon waved goodbye to her role as FM (Image: -)

“I’m a human being” was the phrase that kept coming up. It was evident after a relentless few weeks of being picked apart over whether a transgender prisoner was a man or a woman, on top of two exhausting years leading the country through the pandemic, she desperately wanted to be treated like one.

When journalists questioned why she had an apparent empty tank out of the blue, she made sure she nipped any perception of a sudden fall from grace straight in the bud. She pointed out that all of us, day after day, have a huge raft of emotions swirling around and it can take a long time to hear them all out and make a decision about how you proceed. 

“I’m a human being and every day, every human being wrestles with a whole load of conflicting emotions and over the last few weeks I’ve struggling with just that,” she said.

“I get up in the morning and I tell myself, and I usually convince myself, that I’ve got what it takes to keep going but then I realise that maybe isn’t true and you go through a process of deciding where it is in that decision you’re going to fall.

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“I could go on for another few months but I know that as time passed I would have less and less energy to give to the job.

“Some days I’ve hardly thought about it at all, other days it’s weighed more heavily. It always takes you a bit of time I think between the point where you’ve maybe made a decision and then being able to admit that to yourself.”

Sturgeon referenced the importance of her “rock” of a family and wanting to spend more time on “Nicola Sturgeon the person”. No matter what angle you felt you wanted to take on the story, whatever you thought of her politics, you left the room feeling as if she was relatable to at least some degree.

After she finished up, and in the pictures taken following the press conference, you could see the relief all over her face. The “wrestling” she referenced was finally over and we can all relate to that feeling of peace when, for better or worse, you’ve made a call and what will be, will be.

The humanity in her speech was not lost on even those from opposing parties. Ruth Davidson, her biggest rival for so long, said she put in a “helluva shift”. That wasn't something Davidson's successor could bring himself to do. Meanwhile, former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander called her a “class act”, and even Jo Swinson heaped praise on the FM.

“I am a human being”. Four words that just somehow threw a fire blanket over an attempted political burning of Sturgeon over the past few weeks.