In her latest column from Holyrood, Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley MSP Elena Whitham reflects on the achievements of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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NOW that Nicola Sturgeon has stood down as the First Minister of Scotland, I feel it is important to reflect on her time in the highest office in the land.

Eight election victories in eight years as First Minister, with a truly formidable record in government where we have built a fairer, better Scotland. 

From progressive income tax; a National Investment Bank; leading the way in climate change; establishment of Social Security Scotland; the Scottish Child Payment lifting children out of poverty; the Baby Box; expanded double childcare; The Promise for care-experienced young people; the highest level of school spend per pupil anywhere in the UK; the highest number of teachers per head; closing the attainment gap; record numbers of university admissions; free tuition for higher education; free bus travel for those under 22; the Domestic Abuse Act; free period products; abolishing prescription charges; minimum unit pricing saving lives; record high health funding; and the best performing A&E departments anywhere in the UK – Nicola Sturgeon’s record speaks for itself.

And we can never forget the tireless efforts and burden she shouldered as the First Minister during the global Covid pandemic, where her legacy was being an honest voice in just about every single person's home as we all made painful sacrifices in a bid to keep each other safe – where specifically older relatives spoke of her updates as if they had been received in person.    

In the First Minister’s own words and to her legacy: “In the toughest of times our country showed the best of itself – with love, care and solidarity.”

And it feels fitting that one of her last statements as First Minister in the Chamber was to deliver on behalf of the Scottish Government, a formal apology to the many thousands of women, most of who were young and unmarried, who were forced to give up their babies for adoption until the late 1970s.

An apology which was heartfelt, and where the emotion in the Chamber and Gallery was palpable as she acknowledged the horror of what happened to these women is almost impossible to comprehend.

For me, Nicola Sturgeon has been a huge personal inspiration throughout her time as the first woman to hold office as First Minister, where she advanced gender equality and has left a legacy that no girl in our country can have any doubt that a woman can hold the highest office in the land. 

Her cabinet has always been gender balanced, and I was never so proud to be asked to join her in government.  

So, it is with my deep heartfelt thanks that I send my very best wishes to Nicola Sturgeon as she steps down from the huge burden of responsibility of the office of First Minister, and that she gets to enjoy making up lost times with family and friends – getting to enjoy some of the simpler things we can all often take for granted.