IT’S quite hard to believe that an entire year has passed since Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation.

At the time, it was difficult to picture a Scotland where Sturgeon wasn’t at the helm, and a year on, the same is true of her successor Humza Yousaf. It’s funny how quickly familiarity changes, and how things that were once so unfamiliar can now feel just as familiar as the things we begrudgingly let go of.

Some 286 FMQ sessions, seven years and consecutive record-breaking election wins – the legacy left by the Sturgeon and John Swinney era was no mean feat.

With thanks to 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. Some 52% of people in Scotland 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.

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But Yousaf has risen to the occasion. Particularly in the last few months when, under the worst of circumstances, Yousaf has shown the compassion and good judgement of a world-class leader and has been internationally recognised for it. There is truth to the notion that Scotland has a political talent and democratic foundation to be deeply proud of.

Though Sturgeon stood down from her role as first minister a year ago, it certainly wasn’t the last we would hear from her. In that year, I think we have actually seen more of her true personality and likeability than we saw throughout her tenure as first minister – with more to come when she releases her debut book that is sure to be quite the insight into a woman that, until more recently, we didn’t get to know much about.

It has been a difficult year for Sturgeon both personally and professionally, but she has handled it well and is emerging almost even more likeable than the version that won consecutive elections for the best part of a decade. An incredible accomplishment, as good as unheard of when it comes to departed politicians.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

It seems the more her character is questioned in the press, and without the shackles of public responsibility intertwined in everything that she does, the more the public view her as a fellow human being rather than as a politician that they have nothing in common with or can’t relate to.

Her comments about Boris Johnson were very possibly some of the most commonly held in the country at the time, and the publication of them did nothing other than cement her as one of the many rather than the few, pardon the distasteful reference. Even though, as I suspect, the intended effect was quite the opposite.

Just a couple of weeks ago was the latest press-manufactured controversy around her, when she appeared before the Covid inquiry.

After her private WhatsApp messages confirmed nothing other than the fact that she thinks a lot more like the general public than we perhaps first assumed, we heard about nothing else in the news cycle for almost a full week.

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The most storyless of headline stories there has ever been. A manufactured outrage that took away from the real facts and findings of an incredibly important process, that did an injustice to the people who suffered – and are still suffering – as a result of the pandemic. A media circus of the like she has been no stranger to throughout her prominence.

Nicola Sturgeon is a likeable character and a good leader. The facts speak for themselves, whether they are liked or lumped.

The main reason she is contentious politically is because she supports – and has significantly advanced –the case for Scottish independence. She challenges the status quo of an incredibly powerful institution. Not only that, she presents a credible threat to it.

If history tells us anything, it’s that no-one who has ever systemically changed anything did it without challenge or ridicule – especially if they were a woman.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

When Scotland does achieve it’s independence, the inevitability of which looking more likely with every passing Westminster disaster, it simply won’t have been possible without Sturgeon’s contribution. And she will be remembered for it.

The Sturgeon phenomenon has withstood some of the toughest of challenges of any political leader, and doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of dwindling now that she’s moved on to pastures new. It’s almost as if the Scottish electorate do in fact know a good and honest leader when they see one. Yousaf’s increasing poll numbers seem to indicate much of the same.

Scotland has been on quite the political journey in the decade since the referendum, and like her or dislike her, there is no denying that Sturgeon has been and remains one of the most, if not the most, influential leaders of our time.

She has forever changed the political landscape here and inspired a whole new generation of people – particularly women – to engage in politics. A legacy that even the harshest of press coverage cannot ever undo.

We may be almost a year on from her departure from the top of the ladder, but we’ve far from seen the last of her yet.