FOR some reason, timing is never on my side when big political events happen.

Like every Wednesday when my toddler doesn’t go to nursery, I was slouching in bed last week.

When I finally decided to pick up my phone to see what was up in the world, I was alarmed to see dozens of notifications of people in France asking me: “please tell us what is going on? Is Nicola Sturgeon really going? Why now?!”

This is how I first heard about Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to quit.

Then I rushed to the TV to watch her press conference – or rather, attempt to watch it, as my kid required every second of my attention and demanded that I sing Hey Diddle Diddle and The Wheels On The Bus.

The news came as a surprise, even if the First Minister has been saying for a while how heavy the responsibility to lead the country, especially during the Covid pandemic, was, and how the decisions she had to make still haunted her.

She also criticised on several ­occasions for the tone of the political debate in Scotland that was becoming more and more ­acrimonious, leading to more horrific abuse sent to politicians day in, day out, ­especially elected women.

So after the shock, I thought: ­actually, I am glad she has decided to go, and I am ­happy she was transparent about her ­reasons.

It is not every day that you hear a senior politician say that they have served their time and need to call it a day.

Generally, when they do, it is ­either ­because they have been forced out – then they can blame their ­departure on ­everyone and ­everything except ­themselves and their own actions which lost them their party’s support – or because they endured such a humiliating defeat that they couldn’t ­possibly look at voters ­without shame – like France’s socialist prime minister ­Lionel Jospin who was shockingly beaten into third place by the far right in the 2002 presidential election.

Because of the rarity of her decision, the First Minister’s announcement was widely covered in France too.

What was quite remarkable to see is the similarity of the comments made by the press: the consensus was that it was ­amazing to see a senior political leader understanding that they are not ­indispensable, so there is no use trying to cling to power at all costs.

“In Scotland, the emblematic First ­Minister Nicola Sturgeon resigns”, ­tweeted Edwy Plenel, the iconic editor of Mediapart, a left-leaning news and ­investigation website.

“After New Zealand’s PM, she is a fine example of sensitive politics, in ­opposition to masculine, virilist and unbreakable careers and posturing.”

Sandrine Rousseau, a Green MP who has long fought against sexism and ­misogyny in politics, echoed this analysis, tweeting: “#jacindaardern ­#nicolasturgeon – two women, and such a different relationship to power. Thank you, ladies, please don’t go too far, you still have a lot to teach us.”

OF course, there will always be hostile comments against the First Minister: unfortunately, France isn’t immune from culture wars, so some people are very happy that she has decided to go following the Gender Recognition Reform vote.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that newswires initially reported that the reason for her resignation was the ­controversy surrounding the law that has been struck down by the UK ­Government. They quickly corrected it ­after ­accusations of disinformation rained on them.

For many in France, Sturgeon is not only the face of the aspiration for independence, but a symbol of a ­modern, welcoming, inclusive ­Scotland, even more so after the 2016 Brexit ­referendum.

EU citizens certainly have a part to play in this: because the ­political leadership embraced all the citizens of Scotland, irrespective of where they came from. In return, a lot have become ­advocates for the country.

I will never forget her speech at the ­official opening of the Scottish ­Parliament in 2016, weeks before the EU referendum.

“We are one Scotland and we are ­simply home to all those who choose to live here.”

Simple words, but so impactful. They resonated in my heart, and made me think: yes, I want to be part of this ­country, and apparently the feeling is ­mutual, for a change.

This message crossed the Channel and was well received by the French.  Recently, I was taking part in an event organised near the town where I grew up in the rural centre of the country.

The ­people who attended it, from all walks of life, all told me the same thing: “We ­always feel so welcome in Scotland. ­Brexit is a waste of time and money. What a shame that they have left the EU, but we’ll have them back if they want!”

In the French National Assembly too, Sturgeon was praised by ­parliamentarians sitting in the Foreign Affairs Committee.

After an hour of discussion with them, the chair of the committee, the late ­Liberal MP Marielle de Sarnez, said: “Thank you for your sincerity and your clarity. The Scots are lucky to have you. We are ­looking forward to visiting Scotland, we love your country a lot.”

Of course, this is not to say that ­Sturgeon leaves with an impeccable ­legacy.

Scotland is facing many difficult ­challenges that were not solved during her eight years at the helm: public ­services are suffering and people are feeling the full brunt of the cost of living crisis.

It is obvious that all the positive, ­inclusive speeches in the world won’t solve any of these issues: but in a world of division, where minorities are ­demonised, it is important that leaders stay firm on the important values of equality and ­fairness that Sturgeon has defended. I am very grateful that she remained faithful to those principles.

I LOOK forward to seeing what she is going to do next. What I hope is that her resignation will force us all – citizens, politicians, journalists – to face our hypocrisy.

We all like to jump on the feminist bandwagon and call ourselves champions of women, but we are unable to create an environment where women feel legitimate to access big responsibilities and remain in these responsibilities without being subjected to all sorts of abject threats.

We comment on their body, the length of their skirt, the height of the heels, their marriage, whether they have ­children, their age, when they just have fun with their friends… They are often portrayed as ­scheming witches or objectifiable, ­brainless ­go-getters who must have ­offered ­sexual favours to a man to get where they are. Who would want to inflict this on themselves?

Honestly, I wouldn’t want to go ­anywhere near public life while this is what I could face, especially as a Black, foreign woman.

So here’s to all the incredibly ­courageous women who dare to step up, own their own voice, stand in government and parliament and work to make the lives of those less fortunate better.