RIGHT Oh. Hands up who hadn’t heard of Alok Sharma before COP26. (Or even after it?) The PM’s pick as ­President of this ­massive ­international climate summit (because y’know he’s obviously far too busy being world king to turn up much and talk to the world), is a bloke who is ­doubtless a household name in his own household.

The idea that world leaders or their ­negotiators had the foggiest notion about Mr Sharma is risible. But that is the ­Johnson way with anything difficult – punt it swiftly to an underling to save any tedious reading of the small print. (Viz Brexit, NI protocols etc).

Curious too has proved his decision to have this essential gathering of policy ­makers and climate activists in Scotland’s largest city, presumably to fortify the ­belief that membership of the Union confers ­manifold benefits even on those tartan fringed ingrates, the Jocks.

That went well, did it not? Whilst the PM was swanning maskless around a ­hospital in the north east of England – ­doubtless taking up valuable clinical time – the First Minister was an ever present at COP. She used it, hardly unpredictably, as a ­major ­opportunity to network, and to put ­Scotland and its ambitions firmly in the ­international frame.

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I will be far from the only voyeur making leadership comparisons between Sturgeon and Johnson, and finding the latter ­coming an unflattering second. It has been a ­classic example of a UK Government whose ­strategic vision would shame the average goldfish.

First the FM was to be locked out, Mary Queen of Scots style. Then there was a ­panicked recognition that this might not play well with the local lieges. ­Finally Johnson copped out of COP pretty well ­altogether, vacating the floor to his ­northern nemesis.

Back at the Holyrood ranch, the ­opposition leaders were in a bit of a ­quandary. Should they complain about her getting photogrpahs with world leaders ­instead of listening to them at Holyrood, or should they scuttle over there themselves to bask in whatever reflected glory came their way. In the event, some did both.

The last two weeks have shone an ­informative light on models of leadership. A US president for whom hopes were high, but who visibly lacks either the ­oratorical fire of his Democratic predecessor or the populist ranting of the wrecking ball whom he vanquished at the polls.

Yet his emissary, John Kerry, still pulled off the only real coup of the ­proceedings unveiling a deal with ­China born of ­putting in the hard yards for many ­previous months.

A German chancellor who has emerged as the de facto leader of Europe’s big ­hitters and who defied her critics to offer immediate shelter to a million refugees from war torn Syria and elsewhere. That took political guts as well as ­compassion. Compare and contrast a UK Home ­Secretary who treats asylum seekers as unwanted goods.

Sure nobody wants human traffickers to succeed; neither do we want to be part of a UK labelled not a global leader, but, increasingly, a global disgrace.

Leadership comes in all shapes and guises. Sometimes it comes Marmite ­flavoured too. The late Margaret ­Thatcher was adored and despised in equal ­measure – arguably still is. Yet wherever you stand in relation to the Iron Lady, nobody on either side of that fence could accuse her of slacking or being, literally, asleep at the wheel.

Like Johnson she was motivated by ­ambition – nobody believed the bossy boots Education Secretary in her floppy bowed blouses was Prime Ministerial ­material until suddenly she was. More clubbable than Ted Heath – not difficult – and more ruthless.

Unlike Labour, whose speciality ­continues to be internecine warfare, the Tory faithful like to love their leaders, and Thatcher was ever a conference darling. Johnson too, though it transpired – who knew? – that an ability to string together a few conference gags is not really the ­ideal skillset for leading a country or ­coping with a pandemic.

It is something of a delicious irony that in trying to deflect a specific ­example of blatant code breaking, perhaps to ­discourage too great a scrutiny of his own and his ministers’ cavalier attitude to the rules, he has contrived to stir up considerable interest in casual corruption. Small wonder a sizeable subset of the Tory tribe are fit to be tied.

The question now is, can the FM ­parlay her increased profile into ­delivering on the much delayed promise of an ­independence referendum? There are ­certainly stirrings in the undergrowth. The new newspaper produced in tandem with Believe in Scotland, will give the ground troops some factual ammunition on their assorted patches.

There is evidence too, that elements of the government machine are finally ­bending to the essential task of ­preparing for the referendum bill’s passage early next year and the poll itself.

This will be the acid test of Nicola ­Sturgeon’s leadership as far as many of the current and former SNP membership are concerned. She has proved she can focus down on an unexpected emergency like the pandemic.

She has proved she can focus down on an unexpected opportunity like COP26. Now the Yes family need to be persuaded that same focus and work ethic will go into the independence end game.

It will be a different proposition from 2014, for which many of us still retain the fondest memories. Back then there was a groundswell of enthusiasm, motivation, and, not least, creativity. There was too, a unity of purpose which, somehow, has to be regained and re-inforced.

It will take common sense and ­compromise from all the players. I don’t think I’m any less impatient than any paid up member of Alba, but I know in my very bones that serially traducing a leader who enjoys the kind of national and international regard Johnson can only dream of is, frankly, totally counter productive.

Independence will not be won by ­perfecting a ferrets in a sack ­impersonation.

Equally, the SNP and the Scottish ­Government have to understand and take on board the fact that they are no longer the sole stakeholders in this endeavour.

THE Yes family is broad, and deep, and encompasses all strands of political opinion. The SNP too have to dial down the hostility to people with whom they may have profound ideological differences, but with whom they share the most important goal of all.

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The coalition we need to build will be a multi-faceted one. It will comprise those who have had a lifelong commitment to Scottish self determination, and those who have more recently concluded that they can no longer be led by a UK ­Government which has forfeited the right to support or respect.

It will encompass those who are lifelong SNP members, and those who will revert to voting for other parties when there is a parliament with full powers to be ­exploited. Scotland has not suddenly become a homogenous nation. Political diversity is healthy, debate is healthy, ­conversation is healthy. Single ­mindedness can be admirable, closed mindedness is not.

To enthuse those who will need to ­engage in persuasion and campaigning, Nicola Sturgeon will require to convince the still large army of independenistas that she can and will deliver on her pledge to test the public will again before the end of 2023. There can be no more grand old Duke of York tribute acts.

However I’m guessing that is a ­calculation she has already made. She knows that there are some adherents lost due to a lack of conviction that she shares their impatience.

She knows too that the convergence of a particularly unsavoury Westminster administration and the economic ­carnage wrought on the Scottish economy by Brexit, offers a window of opportunity which, if lost, may not open again.

The time is now. The game has to be on.