ALONG with the rest of Scotland, I have watched our First Minister lead the nation through the most gruelling year we will probably experience in our lifetimes.
With each passing day, Nicola Sturgeon’s honesty and integrity has guided, reassured and comforted us through 12 months of fear and overwhelming grief.
Her calm authority and empathy has gained her near universal admiration, not just in Scotland but across Britain and the world.
To me, Nicola Sturgeon is so much more than our First Minister. She is also a great colleague and a dear friend.
Over the last 12 months I have seen in her the signs – tell-tale signs only a close friend would recognise – of the burden she has borne with resolve and dignity.
They are the occasional cracks in her voice, expressions and body language as she stood before the country delivering the grim daily toll of tragedy we have endured.
I know every lost life weighs heavily. She will forever question if she could have done more, made different decisions, other judgment calls. She is, after all, her own harshest critic.
And that is why I find the groundless attacks on her honesty and integrity from opportunistic political opponents so deeply offensive.
It was clear several weeks ago that, for the Tories, this was purely about politics when they proclaimed her guilt before hearing so much as a word of her evidence. It is their undermining of natural justice which exposes their true motives.
The Tories continue to insist they are acting on behalf of women. That is such a desperate, transparent lie that it insults our intelligence. That’s before we get into the complete hypocrisy of the various, growing number of Tory Ministers in the UK Government who have ACTUALLY broken the ministerial code.
This is the sordid politics of Donald Trump. You only have to delve briefly into the dark recesses of social media to find a cesspit of undiluted, old-fashioned misogyny directed at Nicola Sturgeon. I can’t believe female opposition members can be entirely at ease with that.
In contrast, despite the mistakes made by the Government – mistakes owned by the First Minister – she has also been the person who has been unwavering in protecting the interests of the women complainers.
Like those women, Nicola is not the first woman let down badly by a man she once trusted. Regrettably, she will not be the last.
To unprincipled opposition politicians, the indisputable fact that Nicola did not intervene on behalf of a man to help cover up sexual harassment allegations is an inconvenient truth. They only want her to pick up the tab for the behaviour of her predecessor.
Fortunately, in six weeks, the people of Scotland will give their verdict on who they trust.
And I put my faith in the people of this nation to reject the mentality of the Tory lynch mob and re-elect our exceptional First Minister.
Note: A version of this article was first published in the Sunday Mail.