Nicola Sturgeon has been named Scotland’s Politician of the Year the day after becoming the country’s first female leader.
She saw off competition for the honour from two fellow party leaders - Conservative Ruth Davidson and Patrick Harvie of the Greens - who were both regarded as successful campaigners during the debate over Scotland’s future.
It is the third time Ms Sturgeon has been given the honour. As she collected the award at a ceremony at Edinburgh’s Prestonfield House hotel, the new First Minister said: “If I was to say this was the biggest honour I have been given this week I think I would probably be lying, but this is a very close second.
“We have had the most amazing year in Scotland. If I can say that, as someone who was on the losing side of the referendum, that tells you how special 2014 has been for our country.
“Let us continue to debate our differences with vigour and with passion, because that is part of our DNA as Scotland, but let us do something else in 2015, let us focus on the many, many things that unite us as a country.”
As well as being awarded the prestigous Politician of the Year award, Ms Sturgeon picked up another honour, with judges also naming her E-Politician of the Year.
Scotland’s new First Minister has some 100,000 followers on Twitter, and has announced plans to use Facebook as part of her effort to connect with members of the public.
While Ms Sturgeon was named Politician of the Year, there was a Lifetime Achievement award for the man who led the successful campaign to keep Scotland in the UK.
Edinburgh MP Alistair Darling returned to frontline politics to take on the job of heading the cross-party Better Together campaign. Prior to that he has spent 13 years in the Labour government at Westminster, first under Tony Blair and latterly under Gordon Brown.
In the wake of the referendum vote the Edinburgh South West MP announced plans to retire from the House of Commons at next May’s general election.
Receiving the award, which he said he supposed was “the equivalent of the political gold watch”, Mr Darling said: “I will still be around. I am sure I will have one or two things to say about the country I love.”
Mr Brown was also honoured for his contribution to Scottish politics in the last 12 months, with the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP named as Best Scot at Westminster for the fourth time.
The former Labour leader was regarded as having made key interventions in the referendum debate, including a speech he made in Glasgow the day before the poll.
Ms Davidson picked up the prize for the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year, with judges praising a highly personal speech she made as Holyrood debated the introduction of same-sex marriage legislation.
Labour’s Hugh Henry, the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee, was honoured for speaking out against the politicisation of Holyrood’s committee system, condemning the “cult of obedience” among MSPs after the SNP used its majority on his committee to water down a report.
Community MSP of the Year, a new category introduced this year, was awarded to independent Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie after he highlighted concerns about police officers on patrol carrying firearms.
Police Scotland later changed its policy on this, announcing that armed officers would only be sent to life-threatening incidents or those involving firearms.
After successfully lobbying for more support for vulnerable youngsters in care, as well as those leaving care, the charities Barnardo’s Scotland, the Aberlour Childcare Trust and Who Cares? Scotland jointly won the award for Public Campaign of the Year.
Gordon Aikman, who has worked to boost awareness of and funding for Motor Neuron Disease after being diagnosed with the condition, was also honoured for his efforts.
The campaigner, who told of his plight in a newspaper article which stated “I’m dying. And fast”, was given a special Judges Award.
The Politics in Business Award went to Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing in recognition of his efforts to help business across the country, while Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson was named as Scottish Local Politician of the Year after the city successfully hosted the Commonwealth Games.
The council was involved in securing the City Deal which will deliver more than £1 billion of extra investment to Glasgow and neighbouring local authorities.