THERE was a sombre mood across the chamber as FMQs got under way yesterday. Before questions kicked off, Nicola Sturgeon had requested to make a short statement on the story that broke overnight about the now former finance secretary Derek Mackay.

Text exchanges published in full in the Scottish Sun show that Derek Mackay sent hundreds of messages to a 16-year-old schoolboy over a period of months.

After contacting him via social media, Mackay was persistent in trying to convince the boy to meet in person. He offered to take him to an event and called him “cute”.

The First Minister looked understandably and visibly angry as she informed the chamber that, as well stepping down from government, Mackay had also been suspended from the SNP and parliamentary group pending an investigation into his conduct. She said she had been unaware of the allegations until she saw the story on Wednesday night and stated that it was after she read the full transcript of the messages between Mackay and the 16-year-old that she took the decision to suspend him from the party.

Nobody was left in any doubt about how seriously she viewed the incident.

Jackson Carlaw used his questions to the First Minister to raise the issue, asking whether she was aware of any other allegations of a similar nature and whether she had been in contact with the family of the boy in question.

The First Minister said she was not aware of any other allegations and said that – while she didn’t know the identity of the 16-year-old or his family – she would meet with them if that’s what they wanted.

In response, Carlaw read out the NSPCC definition of “grooming” and the silence of the chamber as he did so reflected the seriousness of the situation.

In what was a difficult – both personally and politically – session for Nicola Sturgeon, she handled it as well as could be expected, given the circumstances.

She was right to stress that when dealing with allegations of inappropriate or abusive behaviour, political parties must be consistent. It’s so easy to condemn or call for action when your opponents are accused, it is far harder to do so when it involves a representative from your own party.

In acting so swiftly and decisively, Nicola Sturgeon has shown real leadership. She has set a standard for how political leaders should act in future when it is their party that is in the spotlight.

Because make no mistake, the inappropriate behaviour of some men in politics – and it is almost always men – is not the preserve of one political party. Every party has had allegations made against somebody within their ranks at some point and it’s how they deal with it that is the real test. For as long as political leaders or supporters shout “but what about the other side” when their party representatives have questions to answer, we will never tackle the underlying causes of harassment, misconduct or abuse of power.