WHEN the First Minister made the announcement that she was standing down from her post I, like so many others, was gutted.

Even at times when I’ve not agreed with her, it has always been a source of great comfort to me, as I look at the absolutely riotous mess that is Westminster politics and the rotating list of incompetents who enter 10 Downing Street, that I could look to home and find a First Minster who was head and shoulders above every other politician.

A competent, articulate, and persuasive leader who provided a constant, stable contrast to the ridiculousness of Westminster. Whoever replaces Nicola Sturgeon has big shoes to fill.

In her resignation speech, the First Minister spoke about how polarised debate can become as people look at every policy through the lens of whether they like the person delivering the idea or not.

As a politician’s time in office lengthens, people’s opinion of you becomes more solidified and immovable. It is natural in a way because it is our previous experiences with a person that decides our level of trust in them.

Thinking on that part of the speech, I’ve no doubt people would argue my “lens” is biased, but I truly think Nicola Sturgeon has been the most competent and dutiful leader of any part of the UK in her eight years in office. Her legacy will be talked about and discussed for months and years to come.

As I see it, however, Nicola Sturgeon’s greatest achievement was to help make the SNP much more progressive than years gone by, and certainly a much more comfortable place for people such as me.

The baby box, the Scottish Child payment, progressive income tax policy, gender recognition reform, improvements for care-experienced young adults, and an unwavering belief in Scotland’s place in the European Union, all have made the SNP a place young people can find their political home.

It has not been perfect, obviously, but any turn to the right, fiscally or socially, would risk alienating a huge slice of our membership and our electoral credibility.

Even practically speaking, any attempt to move the party to the right would destroy the main motivation for many activists out chapping doors and convincing others that Scotland can take a different path to that which the rest of the UK is following.

Take that reason away and you’ll very quickly find no-one under the age of 35 willing to deliver any of your leaflets.

Some commentators and journalists are gleefully letting us know that this moment marks the end of the SNP in general. The Labour Party seems to think that Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation means suddenly all the Scottish voters that left them in 2014 will want to come scurrying back to them.

I said it in my maiden speech as an MP, and I think it’s worth repeating now: “I did not leave the Labour Party, the Labour Party left me."

That is perhaps even truer now than it was in 2015. Brexit-loving, strike-loathing and fiscally and socially conservative Keir Starmer has pulled Labour even further to the right than Blair ever did, and the people of Scotland know it.

A change at the top of the SNP does not undo the fact that Labour has left the working class and Scotland behind.

Those same commentators and journalists are further gleefully letting us know that this moment marks the end of the independence movement. Obviously, it doesn’t. The independence movement has always been bigger than any one person or even any one party.

These commentators made similar comments when the last first minister resigned, and the independence movement has continued for eight years since then.

The movement is, however, at a pivotal point. The Tories and Labour have made clear they will deny Scotland’s democratic right to hold a referendum for as long as they want.

The Supreme Court has made clear the Scottish Parliament can’t legislate for it on their own. As such, we are looking for a new approach, and I expect that those who are going to stand in the leadership election will have their own ideas.

Whoever wins will have to enrich that vision of a progressive independent Scotland, and layout the path by which we get there. It may not be easy, but when has it ever been?