Scottish Politician of the Year Awards: shortlist revealed

Tenacity, resilience and defying the odds are key themes of the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards 2023 in association with ScottishPower.

Celebrating their 25th anniversary, the Awards salute the politicians and campaigners who have fought to make a difference and changed lives over the previous 12 months.

First Minister Humza Yousaf is nominated for the prestigious main title after winning the SNP leadership and succeeding Nicola Sturgeon in Bute House.

His gruelling start to the job included fallout from the police investigation into the SNP’s finances, the Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election, losing an MP to the Tories and suspending an MSP.

It is a feat of mental and physical endurance which in recent weeks has been made harder still by his family’s crisis in war-torn Gaza. Despite his doubters, Mr Yousaf is still standing.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is nominated for keeping his party’s electoral fortunes on an upward trajectory, taking a seat off the SNP for the first time in a Westminster by-election.

His growing closeness to Sir Keir Starmer shows Labour thinks he will help reshape the political landscape north of the border at the general election.

Mr Sarwar’s deputy Jackie Baillie is nominated for being the behind-the-scenes force behind much of Scottish Labour’s success. A key figure in sifting candidates and the architect of the victory in Rutherglen, she was made a Dame in June “for political and public service”.

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

They are hosted this year by the legendary Bernard Ponsonby, former political editor of STV, and take place at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh on November 23.

The judges, chaired by Catherine Salmond, Editor of the Herald, went through long and detailed deliberations before coming to their conclusions.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is nominated for Best Scot at Westminster after testing the boundaries of the devolution settlement with a veto on Holyrood’s gender reforms and contesting the deposit return scheme. He also helped establish two Green freeports in Scotland and judiciously waved through Glasgow’s drug consumption room pilot.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain is nominated for getting her Carer’s Leave Bill onto the statute books, entitling all carers to a week’s unpaid leave per year.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn is the third nominee after a string of impressive performances against Rishi Sunak at PMQs. The co-author of the SNP’s new independence strategy is also tipped as a possible party leader.

The SNP’s Kenny Gibson is nominated in the Committee MSP of the Year category for his work leading Holyrood’s finance committee. He and colleagues have doggedly pursued the cost of the new National Care Service and been caustic in their criticism of it.

Tory Edward Mountain is nominated for chairing the Net Zero Committee which continues to unearth revelations about the CalMac ferries scandal, while former police officer Audrey Nicoll is shortlisted for her role convening the Criminal Justice Committee.

The SNP’s Fergus Ewing is nominated for the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year Award for a series of impassioned speeches that were often uncomfortable for his party.

Also shortlisted are Labour’s Michael Marra, Nicola Sturgeon, and Jamie Greene, who lost his place on the Tory frontbench after standing up for the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Mr Marra is nominated again in the One to Watch category alongside Tory MSP Russell Findlay and the SNP’s minister for drugs and alcohol policy Elena Whitham.

Also earning a second nomination is Mr Ewing, who is shortlisted in the Politics in Business Award for speaking out against a series of policies he deemed economically damaging.

Former finance secretary Kate Forbes is shortlisted after foregrounding the economy in her SNP leadership bid, pushing Mr Yousaf towards his later “reset” for business.

While Mr Sarwar is nominated for his slick engagement with business as part of Labour’s revival.

The Community MSP of the Year category sees Mr Ewing and Mr Marra nominated for championing constituency issues in the Highlands and Tayside respectively.

Mr Ewing savaged his own party for inaction on the A9, while Mr Marra and Tory Liz Smith, who is also nominated, both demanded a public inquiry into an NHS Tayside scandal.

A new category for 2023, the ScottishPower Green Champion Award recognises an MSP for their work on environmental, sustainability and climate change issues.

Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton is nominated for highlighting the problem of sewage dumping in rivers, lakes and coastlines.

Tory Maurice Golden rebelled against his party after Rishi Sunak watered down the UK Government’s Net Zero ambitions.

Patrick Harvie has used his ministerial position to promote heat pumps and phase out gas boilers. While his fellow Green Gillian Mackay has urged a ban on single-use vapes.

The toughest category to whittle down, because there were so many impressive contenders, was Campaign or Campaigner of the Year.

The judges shortlisted the campaign that secured a public inquiry into rogue Tayside surgeon Professor Sam Eljamel, which Liz Smith raised repeatedly at Holyrood; the campaign which secured a formal apology for the historic injustice suffered by thousands of woman who lost children through forced adoption; and the coalition which successfully headed off a fishing ban in highly protected marine areas.

For Local Politician of the Year, the nominees are Cosla’s SNP resources spokesperson Katie Hagmann, Borders Tory leader Euan Jadine, Falkirk Independent Ann Ritchie, and the Independent leader of Orkney Islands Council James Stockan.

Aiir Networks Chief Executive Derek Graham said: “Once again, the standard of this year’s nominees proves the wealth of political talent that exists in Scotland and I wish to thank those that are shortlisted for their contribution to Scottish politics in the last 12 months.

“All of us at Aiir Networks are looking forward to seeing who will follow so many previous worthy winners and take home the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year Award in 2023.

“We send our congratulations to all and we can’t wait to celebrate with the winners across all categories on the night.”

For more information please contact Nina Holmes, Head of Events, at



  • Wendy Chamberlain MP
  • Stephen Flynn MP
  • Rt Hon Alister Jack MP



  • Kenneth Gibson MSP
  • Edward Mountain MSP
  • Audrey Nicoll MSP


DONALD DEWAR DEBATER OF THE YEAR Supported by Aiir Networks 

  • Fergus Ewing MSP
  • Jamie Greene MSP
  • Michael Marra MSP
  • Nicola Sturgeon MSP


ONE TO WATCH Supported by ScottishPower 

  • Russell Findlay MSP
  • Michael Marra MSP
  • Elena Whitham MSP



  • Fergus Ewing MSP
  • Kate Forbes MSP
  • Anas Sarwar MSP



  • Fergus Ewing MSP
  • Michael Marra MSP
  • Liz Smith MSP



  • Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP
  • Maurice Golden MSP
  • Patrick Harvie MSP
  • Gillian Mackay MSP



  • Eljamel Inquiry / Liz Smith MSP
  • Forced Adoption Apology
  • Coalition against Highly Protected Marine Areas



  • Councillor Katie Hagmann
  • Councillor Euan Jardine
  • Councillor Ann Ritchie
  • Councillor James Stockan



  • To be announced on the night



  • Dame Jackie Baillie MSP
  • Anas Sarwar MSP
  • Humza Yousaf MSP