Scottish Politician of the Year 2023 launches to recognise upheaval

THE Herald today launches the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards 2023 in association with ScottishPower, recognising those who helped lead the country through another year of extraordinary upheaval.

The cost-of-living crisis, punishing energy and mortgage bills, and the continued strain on public services in the wake of the pandemic have dominated domestic politics.

Rishi Sunak, the UK’s third prime minister in a year, tried to present himself as a new broom, but found himself dragged back into Tory infighting and sleaze.

One of his predecessors, Boris Johnson, quit as an MP after seeing the damning findings of a Commons report into his repeated lies to parliament over Covid rule-breaking.

Scottish politics also saw more than its fair share of drama, starting with Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as First Minister in February after more than eight years in Bute House.

Read more: Anas Sarwar named Herald Scottish Politician of the Year 2022

She had become too polarising a figure to change voters’ minds about independence or sell them on the merits of SNP policy, she admitted in an emotional farewell.

But it proved only the beginning of an extraordinary run of events for her party.

Her husband Peter Murrell quit as chief executive during the leadership contest after the party misled the media about losing almost a third of its members.

Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan attacked one another in a bruising fight for the top.

Mr Yousaf then had the shortest honeymoon in political history, as problems with the SNP’s finances emerged, and Mr Murrell, Ms Sturgeon and party treasurer Colin Beattie were arrested and released without charge by police investigating the party’s fundraising.

The word ‘motorhome’ unexpectedly entered the political lexicon.

Read more: In pictures: The Scottish Politician of the Year Awards 2022

Holyrood, which had been expecting a relatively sleepy year without an election, was convulsed as never before.

There were also growing cross-border tensions between London and Edinburgh over Holyrood’s powers, with the sinking of the DRS recycling scheme and a looming court battle over Westminster’s block on the Gender Reform Recognition Bill.

Through it all has been the growing drumbeat of the general election, as Labour, the SNP and the Tories contemplate a pivotal encounter with the electorate.

While on the international front, the war in Ukraine has ground on remorselessly.

Started in 1999, the awards are the highlight of the Scottish political calendar, and are headlined by ScottishPower and sponsored by Aiir Networks and Drax.

A judging panel chaired by Catherine Salmond will draw up a shortlist in October.

The winners of the Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards 2023 will be announced at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh on Thursday, November 23, 2023 The Herald also welcomes proposals for Public Campaigner of the Year, won in 2022 by Back Off Scotland in conjunction with Green MSP Gillian Mackay, whose work on legislating to create protest-free buffer zones around abortion clinics will affect thousands of women.

Nominations close Thursday, August 10, 2023.

Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower, said: “It’s never been more important for politicians and business leaders to work together towards net zero and that’s why we’re delighted to be back once again sponsoring Scottish Politician of the Year Awards.

“Looking ahead, we hope we can continue this crucial work and do it faster than we have done before, ensuring we reach our net zero ambition by the end of the decade.”

Group managing director, Hamish Fraser, added: “Last year, Aiir Networks welcomed The Herald’s Scottish Politician of the Year Awards back to the Scottish political calendar.

“That event was a resounding success so of course we wanted to support the awards again in 2023.

“In fact, this will be the fourth time that Aiir Networks has sponsored the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year award, which is such an important category in today’s political climate, and once again we are looking forward to hearing the nominees and debating who should be the winner of this extra special award.

“As always, we wish The Herald every success for the 2023 event.”

Ian Kinnaird, Scottish assets and generation engineering director of Drax, said: “Drax believes that Scotland has the potential to be a world leader in tackling climate change and our hydro and pumped-hydro assets will play a valuable role in ensuring this.

“The Scottish Politician of the Year awards are an important part of recognising the work politicians do to deliver showcase energy for the people of Scotland and it’s why we are delighted to be supporting the awards.”

To make suggestions for the Public Campaigner Award, contact or call 0141 302 6138.