AS the bruising SNP leadership contest enters its final days, there have been a number of articles in the Scottish media claiming that it's all over for the SNP.

These reports are, to put it mildly, premature. Whoever emerges victorious from the leadership contest faces enormous challenges to rebuild trust and unify an independence movement which at times appears hellbent on exhausting itself with internecine disputes instead of reaching out to those who are as yet unconvinced and persuading them of the necessity for independence.

However, the SNP retains more members than all other political parties combined and the demographic pattern positions support for independence to become the settled will of the people of Scotland over the coming years.

Furthermore, despite the claims of the British nationalist parties, the demand in Scotland for independence is not a product of the SNP. Instead, the dominance of the SNP in Scottish politics is a product of the demand for independence. This is a result of deeper and longer-term issues relating to the manifest failings of the Westminster system and the inability of devolution to do what it was supposed to do.

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This includes failing to protect Scotland from Conservative government policies Scots didn't vote for as both Labour and the Conservatives have been captured by pro-Brexit English nationalism.

These underlying factors remain in play and are unaltered by organisational and leadership issues within the SNP. The SNP is not about to disappear and will remain the dominant party in Scottish politics for the foreseeable future.

Boris Johnson appeared before MPs on the Privileges Committee in the Commons yesterday.

He was there to answer to allegations that he 'willfully and recklessly' misled Parliament when he repeatedly claimed that he had not realised a boozed-up karaoke session as a leaving do for a staff member was, in fact, a party. Johnson was tetchy and bad-tempered, which is his default state whenever anyone attempts to hold him to the same standards as everyone else.

Johnson clearly and blatantly lied through his teeth about the lockdown-busting parties at Downing Street. I know it, you know it, the dugs in the street know it. However, it is likely that he will receive little more than a slap on the wrist from MPs because the Conservatives are desperate to avoid a damaging by-election in Johnson's constituency which could happen if he is suspended from Parliament for a period longer than ten days. This is merely more evidence that Westminster is utterly incapable or unwilling to hold power to account.

The Scottish media does not like good news.

When the minimum price for alcohol was introduced it was accompanied by hysterical warnings in the Scottish press that it would destroy the drinks industry and would do nothing to assist with Scotland's problematic relationship with alcohol. It was denounced as a tax on the poor which would damage Scottish exports and there were warnings that it would create a black market in booze as consumers flock over the border to England in search of cheap drink.

None of these fears has come to pass. A study published by the medical journal The Lancet this week finds that the policy has led to a significant reduction in alcohol-related deaths. The research, based on official data on deaths and hospitalisations, shows that there has been a 13% reduction in alcohol-related deaths since the introduction of the policy with about 150 fewer deaths per week on average.

READ MORE: Ferries scandal report 'rushed to attack Nicola Sturgeon', SNP claim

The largest reduction in alcohol-related deaths is amongst men living in the most deprived parts of the country. The policy, which the Conservatives fought tooth and nail to prevent, has literally saved thousands of lives.

But the biggest news today is that it is the end of an era.

Nicola Sturgeon made her final appearance as First Minister at FMQs in Holyrood. It would be nice to report that Douglas Ross as leader of the largest opposition party made a gracious and respectful acknowledgement of the service of his opponent, but of course, that's not in his nature.

What we got was more of the sneering snark that we have come to expect from a man who has been consistently out-matched, out-performed and out-classed by Nicola Sturgeon.

Ross led with a question about the SNP's membership figures and twice refused to answer a question about the size of the Scottish Conservative membership. That's scarcely surprising, at over 70,000, the SNP's membership is still leagues ahead of the Scottish Conservatives. The Conservatives claimed 200,000 members in the UK as a whole in 2021. In the leadership contest won by Liz Truss in June 2022, only 141,725 Conservative members voted, some 60,000 fewer than the Conservatives claimed.

At very best the Scottish Conservatives have around ten thousand members, probably less, so it’s no wonder Douglas Ross wanted to keep quiet about it.

FMQs ended with a statement from Nicola Sturgeon, the first woman to hold the post. In her final words in the Scottish Parliament as First Minister, she thanked her colleagues, her staff, her party, and her country and spoke about how her leadership will be defined by the pandemic.

Even her opponents have to acknowledge that she rose magnificently to the challenge in stark contrast to the party-going occupant of Downing Street. In doing so the First Minister proved that Scotland is perfectly capable of dealing with a global crisis. Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged that she did not always get everything right, but hoped she can continue to support those causes that mean so much to her such as gender equality, climate change, and of course the campaign for Scottish independence.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon pays tribute to people of Scotland in final speech

Even Douglas Ross was prompted to wish her the best in the future although he could not resist the temptation to get in a few digs. Ross was out-classed by Labour leader Anas Sarwar who, unlike Ross, recognised this is not an occasion all about himself and delivered a warm tribute to a worthy opponent.

Nicola Sturgeon now bows out. By this time next week, there will be another occupant of the hottest seat in Scottish politics. It's time for a new generation to lead the campaign for Scottish independence and they have some very big shoes to fill.