Last Wednesday, I felt shock and a huge sense of loss when Nicola Sturgeon announced that she would be stepping down as First Minister and Leader of the SNP. I know from speaking to folk over the past few days that these feelings are shared by so many right across the country.
She inspired me to choose the path I am now on, after I attended a rally at Eden Court Theatre in November 2014, only days before she became First Minister. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to ask her what she was going to do to encourage more women and girls to take part in frontline politics.
I can still hear her reply.
“Well, Emma, I would like to see young women – Emma – making their voices heard, EMMA.”
After hearing an answer like that, there’s only one way you can go, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The impact of Nicola’s leadership, particularly on so many young women and girls who have seen her carry out her work with empathy, determination, and respect, is immeasurable, and I for one will be forever grateful for her example.
However, as she rightly said in her very dignified resignation statement, we need to look forward and continue to fight for a fairer and more equal Scotland as we progress the case for independence. This is something that we must not lose sight of.
While some sections of the media want you to believe that the exit of Nicola as First Minister somehow equates to the end of the road for the independence movement, and the SNP, it is clear to those who pay attention that the campaign to make Scotland a normal independent country is a much broader affair.
So, while we in the SNP may be carrying out our leadership debate at the same time as continuing the job in government, it is vital that folk across the country, whether they are members of any political party or none, continue to make the positive case for an independent Scotland.
Quite simply, this is a debate that must be won. Scotland just now is a social democratic country in a conservative state. We need independence to ensure that we can make the changes necessary for that fairer more equal country that we all should aspire to.
By the end of March, we’ll know who the next leader of the SNP and the sixth First Minister of Scotland will be. We will then be able to build on the point that Nicola has taken us on the road to independence. I look forward to finishing the journey.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their views.
Best to fill up your tank, it looks like it will be a long, long road.