Nicola is a winner. Eight election victories in 8 years. She has that ‘star quality’ that attracts voters.

That ‘hard to pin down’ something, but you know it when you feel it. A quality that comes along only once in a generation.

I know all 3 candidates in the current leadership race. Kate, Ash and I were part of the 2016 intake, and it was Humza who, sat in the Yes Bar in Glasgow in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, persuaded me to stand for Holyrood.

Humza and I have campaigned together on international issues close to our hearts as well as for Yes and the SNP. He introduced me to all the local community groups in my Provan constituency when he moved on from being a regional MSP in 2016.

The National:

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They still talk highly of his work in the constituency. Humza gives his heart and soul to this party and this movement, and whatever happens he, and the other candidates, will play a huge role in leading us to independence.

But politics can be unforgiving. Political parties are election winning machines or they are nothing, glorified pressure groups at best. And, like it or not, in our 21st democracy party leaders count for a lot.

Leaders' favourability ratings are the best indicator of how a party will fare in elections. Where the leader's numbers point is where the party inevitably ends up.

Through all the twists and turns, trials and tribulations, of this short leadership campaign, and there have been many, one thing has been consistent and predictable. The relentless stream of polling data, turning into a torrent this weekend, showing that the voting public, not just by a large margin, but by a very large margin indeed favour one candidate above the others in this race to succeed Nicola.

It is often said that the first rule in politics is to learn how to count. When it comes down to it the numbers are clear, there is only one candidate for leader of the SNP that can ‘inspire’ voters.

All the plans and strategies for winning elections and referendums count for nothing if the leader can’t put the ball in the back of the net, convince wavering voters to follow, when it matters.

Kate enjoys a 16-point lead in net favourability over Humza in the recent Redfield and Wilton poll. Humza, on minus 10, is 14 points behind Anas Sarwar and only 2 points ahead of Rishi Sunak. A potential SNP leader barely ahead of a leader of the UK Tories, in a poll of Scottish voters!

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In the Channel 4 Ipsos poll Kate has a net favourability lead of 15% over Humza amongst all voters, a lead that extends to 40% (forty percent!) over Humza amongst No voters. Precisely the voters we need to win over to keep the SNP in power and build that sustained majority for Yes.

And Kate enjoys a lead amongst 2014 Yes voters too, with 42% support amongst that cohort compared to 37% for Humza in the latest Panelbase poll.

Opinion Matters for the BIG Partnership puts Kate on +10, a full 21 points ahead of Humza on -11, with Anas Sarwar on +1 trailing Kate but well ahead of Humza.

This, it should be noted, in a poll that was conducted entirely after last Tuesday's sparky STV debate.

When it comes to polling the trend is your friend, and Kate has momentum. As undecided voters make up their minds, her share of the vote has increased from 23% with Panelbase on February 25 to 33% in the latest Panelbase poll.

In those same polls Humza’s support has barely risen the more voters see of him, from 15% at the start of the campaign to 18% now. The fact that both those polls were from the same company is important as it allows for true ‘like for like’ comparisons over the course of the campaign.

As all football fans know, your team can have a good manager, great fans, the right tactics, and hardworking players, but without someone who can score when it really matters everything else counts for nothing.

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The political wilderness is a big place, and its full of parties that failed to listen to what the public were telling them. That turned in on themselves at exactly the moment when they needed to look outwards.

Read the room, as they say.

After 16 years of relentless success it’s easy to become complacent, to assume that there is an inevitability about our victories. Reality is different. There are very few examples of parties anywhere in the world that remain dominant into their 3rd decade, which is precisely what we will be asking voters to do in 2026.

The pendulum swings, and when that tide turns its very difficult to fight it. Unless we make clear headed decisions just now, we are in danger of losing Westminster seats next year that will make the 21 losses we suffered in 2017 look tame.

And then the very real prospect of waking up in 2026 to First Minister Anas Sarwar, something that will set independence back longer than we can imagine.

All that requires for that to happen is an 11-point swing from the 2021 result, the Scottish Labour leader already enjoys consistent double digit leads over Humza.

Kate has been through the wringer in this campaign, and came out not just standing, but with increased support amongst the Scottish public.

We need a winner. For the sake of the party, and the country. The voters are telling us loud and clear.

Kate is a winner; she has the same ‘star dust’ quality that Nicola enjoys. Don’t ignore them and live to regret it later.