IT’S been an emotionally charged week for the SNP – the inevitable, yet nonetheless uncomfortable, departure of Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney from the highest ranks of government after a historic time at the top, is a difficult pill to swallow.

The stability and sheer electoral record they represent not only within their own party but indeed across the wider country is a kind of rare and undisputed political success that very few politicians could ever hope to achieve (or ever have achieved) within the lifespan of their career.

The most solid duo in the history of devolution, they’ve not only been a renowned political force as First Minister and Deputy but both have been recognised political figures for the vast majority of the lifetime of the Scottish Parliament. Two unshifting pillars that seemed almost integral to the survival of the building’s structure itself, the Scottish electorate have come to know Sturgeon and Swinney as trustworthy and stable guardians of Scottish affairs. They have, after all, both been elected to serve in it since the opening of our parliament in 1999.

Both are very obviously head and shoulders above their opponents – who have, despite best efforts and to their deep irritation, been incapable of outdoing either of them in their field.

In what was an emotional day for the SNP as Nicola embarked on her 286th and final session of FMQs, she lifted spirits by effortlessly shutting down the ever-petulant Douglas Ross and laying bare his mortifying record in the distinctive Nicola Sturgeon manner we’ve come to know and love.

Ross, of course, remained true to his ways in his farewell remarks. A classless charlatan that shows no class at every opportunity remains classless at the last hurdle. Groundbreaking and totally unexpected stuff. If you were ever looking for a reason why the electorate rejects him spectacularly at every opportunity, catching up with the week’s FMQs should paint you a clear enough picture.

Despite being thoroughly embarrassed in front of the entire nation yet again, he seemed lighter and almost giddy. To be fair, I would be too if I was him. I imagine he did a jig around his living room the day she announced her resignation. Or the football pitch. Or Westminster. My apologies, I’m not sure which job he was actually doing that day.

Nicola Sturgeon has been an unbeatable force at FMQs since her very first. Her ability to remain measured and calm in her weekly grilling is a skill even her opponents could recognise and respect.

Indicative, perhaps, of the level of opposition talent she’s faced in the past eight years, not a single one has managed to outdo her despite having a weekly opportunity. In fact, she’s seen quite a few of them off in her time.

Alongside Nicola at her final FMQs, laughing hysterically at her response to opposition attacks, was an obviously emotional John Swinney. He’s been her right-hand man throughout her premiership and long before it – this week is undoubtedly the end of an era personally for them both.

Swinney himself is a political figure in a class of his own. When he announced that he too would be stepping down with the First Minister, his resignation was met with a widespread and almost unusual respect for him not just as a politician but as a person – from right across political divides. As someone who spent time working alongside his office as an impassioned 19-year-old, first discovering her desire to fight for change, he remains one of the kindest and most memorable people I’ve come across in my 10 years of political activism.

A man who will have met thousands of people throughout his career but will remember your name and face in a crowded room after just meeting you once – and won’t miss an opportunity to say hello.

During the snap election campaign in 2017, I’d taken on Ruth Davidson at the BBC Leaders’ Debate on the rape clause. One of my first ever political experiences on TV. He sought me out on the campaign trail the next day, and the enthusiasm with which he praised my political insight – and indeed the way he enthusiastically told every person on the campaign trail about it – stays with me to this day.

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His unwavering conviction, kindness and, somewhat uniquely in politics, softness, will define him for years to come. I imagine history will be very kind to John Swinney, as it will Nicola Sturgeon.

Not only is a politician defined by their personal values and likeability, of course, the issues they choose to prioritise and the subsequent effect on the people they govern is the true measure of their success.

And on Thursday, the opposition were up to give their verdict on the Sturgeon and Swinney era.

The divisive nature of politics is widely regarded as the least appealing aspect of it – the constant attack from all sides and the inability to find common ground for the greater good across political lines. A concept that the Greens and the SNP have nailed down with the Bute House Agreement.

UNFORTUNATELY, it’s a concept lost on the likes of Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar, who remain bitter and unyielding in their hatred of the SNP and their tunnel-visioned commitment to Unionism and not much else – to the point that they can’t even bring themselves to celebrate obvious successes that have quite clearly changed the lives of people in Scotland for the better.

Thursday was an utterly boorish affair, with significant success unfoundedly torn to shreds by opponents in what can only be described as pure political opportunism, the kind that the electorate – evidently – does not appreciate and that does not translate into votes come election time.

Whether it suits the narrative of Unionist politics or not, Sturgeon and Swinney have undoubtedly made waves across Scotland that will change the social landscape of the country for generations. Just last week, we heard how minimum unit alcohol pricing – a policy fervently opposed by both Labour and the Tories at the time – has saved on average 156 lives per year since its implementation in 2018.

A perfect example of how party opposition for the sake of party opposition works to the detriment of the people you serve.

Opposition leaders often label Nicola Sturgeon in particular as a “divisive figure” – there’s not much that’s more divisive than standing up in parliament and disregarding success that quite clearly is of benefit to the Scottish people just because your party is too short-sighted and deeply unpopular to do it yourselves.

There’s more of a keenness among opposition leaders to see the SNP fail than there is to see any kind of improvement in the lives of the Scottish people.

Opposition for the sake of opposition is not effective opposition – it’s pantomime. And it was a full-blown pantomimic performance on Thursday.

Under the Sturgeon and Swinney vision alone, we have a new Scottish Social Security system that is lifting children out of poverty. More people from deprived backgrounds have a place at university than ever before. Every baby in Scotland is afforded the same start in life. 52% of the Scottish people pay less income tax than elsewhere in the UK, in a progressive effort to redistribute wealth more evenly – and properly fund our public services. The implementation of the Domestic Abuse act – described as “gold-standard” legislation – enshrined the protection of victims of domestic abuse in law.

And this is just a snapshot.

No politician has ever or will ever get everything perfectly right, sometimes they get it incredibly wrong.

But the lasting legacy of the Sturgeon and Swinney era will be one undisputedly steeped in a commitment to fairness and equality. To making Scotland better for the people they served and putting Scotland firmly on the international map.

This week, we bid farewell to two of the most prominent and successful figures in Scottish political history. And while the future of Scottish politics remains unclear, one thing is for certain – these two might be stepping down, but we’ll feel their impact across Scotland for a very, very long time.