IT has been a time of high emotion in the Scottish Parliament with the passing of the baton from one history-making First Minister to another.

Last week saw the final bow from Nicola Sturgeon, our country’s first female First Minister and she was, rightly, praised from all sides for her contribution to Scottish political life through more than eight years as First Minister, more than 16 years in Government and 24 years in Parliament – all of those spent on the front bench.

I wish Nicola all the very best as she moves to the back benches for the first time in her lengthy parliamentary career.

Throughout those eight years as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has been the most outstanding politician and leader – not just in Scotland, but across the whole of the UK.

She can be rightly proud of what has been achieved on her watch.

The doubling of early years education and childcare, the Scottish child payment, widening of access to higher education with a record number of young people from backgrounds like her own now going to university, minimum unit pricing for alcohol—a policy that is saving lives—a publicly owned and mission-driven national investment bank and putting the climate emergency at the heart of all that the Scottish Government does are just a few of the many policies that will certainly have a lasting impact on our country.

And, of course, the way in which she rose to the challenges of the pandemic. The common sense and concern that she showed on an almost daily basis throughout those incredibly difficult years of the pandemic gave real leadership to the nation, in stark contrast to what we now know was going on in Downing Street.

I delayed writing this column so that I could include reference to the election of the new Leader of the Scottish National Party and, hence, nominee to be Scotland’s First Minister.

During the campaign I made it quite clear that my preference was for Kate Forbes, who I think was an incredibly formidable candidate and came very close to victory, but, nevertheless, I know that Humza will be an excellent party leader and First Minister.

As our new leader said in his speech immediately after the result was announced, over the last five weeks we may have been supporters of different candidates but we are now no longer Team Humza, or Team Kate or Team Ash, we are one team.

Humza Yousaf is the first person from an ethnic minority background to become First Minister and, as he noted in that speech, his family’s path from Punjab to Parliament over two generations sends a strong signal about our country and our society.

The message, loud and clear, is that - wherever you come from, whatever your faith – you can not only succeed in Scotland, you can aspire to the highest office in the land.

In the words of Scotland’s first MSP from an ethnic minority background, the late Bashir Ahmed (for whom Humza once worked), the important question is not where we are from but where we are going, together.