NICOLA Sturgeon has been named Scotland’s Politician of the Year, winning the honour for a record fourth time.
The First Minister was awarded the title by The Herald newspaper exactly a year on from taking on the job.
This has been without a shadow of a doubt the most exciting, exhilarating, challenging privileged and downright exhausting year of my lifeNicola Sturgeon
It comes after the SNP virtually swept the board in the Westminster elections earlier this year, taking all but three of the seats north of the border. Ms Sturgeon was also widely praised for her performance in the television debates.
She collected the award at a ceremony at Edinburgh’s Prestonfield House Hotel and said it was a “huge honour”.
The First Minister said: “This has been without a shadow of a doubt the most exciting, exhilarating, challenging privileged and downright exhausting year of my life.”
Ms Sturgeon, who won the same award last year, is now the only person to have lifted the annual prize four times. Alex Salmond, her predecessor as both First Minister and SNP leader, won it on three occasions.
This year she saw off competition from the leaders of two of Scotland’s other political parties - Ruth Davidson from the Conservatives and Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats.
But Ms Davidson was awarded the E-Politician of the Year, after she used Twitter to criticise Downing Street for lowering flags to half-mast following the death of Saudi King Abdullah earlier this year, describing the move as a “steaming pile of nonsense”.
The Conservative has also used social media to highlight some of the homophobic abuse she receives, and jokingly suggested to Ms Sturgeon and Labour’s Kezia Dugdale that they should call off First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood to watch Andy Murray in a tennis match together.
Mr Rennie too picked up an award, as he was named the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year, with judges praising his tenacity in highlighting the problems at Police Scotland.
Fellow Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes was also honoured for her efforts to hold the force to account, as she was named the Committee MSP of the Year.
The Best Scot at Westminster award went to SNP Commons leader Angus Robertson, after the party went from having a group of six MPs to being the third largest party in the House of Commons following May’s general election.
Motor Neurone Disease (MND) patient Gordon Aikman was chosen as the Campaigner of the Year, for his Gordon’s Fightback campaign, which has now raised more than £400,000 towards finding a cure for the condition.
Mr Aikman, who was diagnosed with the terminal disease at the age of 29, has also secured public funding for specialist MND nurses in Scotland, and has won a guarantee from the Scottish Government to provide communications equipment to those patients who lose their voice.
Accepting his award he made a plea for carers to be paid the Living Wage, saying: “Carers are my hands, arms and legs. They are my independence, my freedom, Carers allow me not just to live but to enjoy life.
“And with no cure for the thing that is killing me, carers do more to improve the quality of my life than any doctor ever could.”
But he said a consultant could earn in six weeks what a care worker earns in one year, and added: “That can and must change. Let’s pay our carers at least a living wage.”
Labour’s Neil Findlay was named the Community MSP of the Year after the Lothians MSP raised local concerns about a flight path trial at Edinburgh Airport. Conservative Gavin Brown, who is stepping down from Holyrood in May, collected the Politics in Business Award, while Scottish Local Politician of the Year went to Cllr David Parker, the leader of Scottish Borders Council, for his efforts to ensure the Borders Railway, which links Edinburgh and Tweedbank, was completed.