THROUGHOUT a year of determined resistance against Russian aggression, the heroic Ukrainian people have reminded the whole continent that democracy and freedom are fragile and worth fighting for.

I have engaged and worked with Ukrainian families in East Lothian and in the Parliament.

Current events in our own country are also posing questions about democracy, such as the recent high-level ‘secret summit’ between senior Tory and Labour MPs at Westminster where they acknowledged the disastrous political mistakes of Brexit and its ongoing economic impacts.

Voting by 64 per cent to 36 per cent to remain in the European Union, East Lothian placed itself on the right side of history.

Financial institutions from the Bank of England to the International Monetary Fund now agree Brexit is damaging but the ‘secret summit’ leaves Brexit fundamentally unchallenged.

To her credit, following the 2016 EU referendum Nicola Sturgeon argued consistently that, while England and Wales voted democratically to leave the EU, Scotland voted to remain. Independence is the only route back to Europe and, in resigning, Nicola cited the “democratic outrage” of Westminster blocking a second referendum among the factors prompting her to admit that “the intensity... and brutality” of modern politics “takes its toll”.

Described by the Financial Times as “one of the pre-eminent Scottish public figures of the era [and] the most effective political opponent of the Union”, Nicola has put in a massive shift in the service of this country.

I’m paying the warmest unequivocal tribute to someone whose love for Scotland inspired her dedicated politics. But by acknowledging that “fairly or unfairly” she polarised opinion, Nicola makes way for a new leader with the energy and vision to unite the country.

Among those most regretting her departure might be the teenagers who mobbed her for selfies and handshakes during her 2021 Prestonpans walkabout. They are the future and their aspirations, and engagement in politics, are precious.

Another current event, the tortuous Northern Ireland Protocol negotiations, offers the crucial lesson that chaos resulted from the Brexit referendum’s follies of a false prospectus and impossible promises.

A new SNP leader must recognise that Scotland’s voters expect an independence referendum to ask, and answer fully, the questions that impact daily life and give voters certainty that SNP policies are already improving their lives.

Personally, I’m excited for a future offering Scotland fresh hope.