“In my head and my heart, I know that time is now; That it is right for me, for my party, and for the country.”

These were the words of Nicola Sturgeon when she announced she was stepping down as party leader and First Minister a year ago today.

The shock resignation led to predictions from opponents that the dream of independence was “dead in the water”.

Meanwhile, Sturgeon herself said she believed it would accelerate the independence movement because she is a “divisive figure”.

READ MORE: STV: Anas Sarwar grilled on Scottish independence referendum

The past 12 months have seen the resignation of top party executives, a leadership contest, a police investigation into finances, and a row over deleted WhatsApps.

What’s been the impact on the SNP and independence movement and where does it go from here?

New leader for the SNP 

The stepping down of Sturgeon saw the party’s first publicly contested leadership contest in nearly 20 years take place. After a race lasting just under a month, Humza Yousaf won the race ahead of rivals Kate Forbes and Ash Regan.

The predictions of crammed in-tray for the new First Minister turned out to be even more tricky than anticipated.

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Less than a month after taking office, former party chief executive Peter Murrell - and Sturgeon's husband - was arrested in connection with the police investigation into the SNP’s finances. This was followed by then treasurer Colin Beattie and Sturgeon herself.

All three were released without charge pending further investigations and the outcome of Operation Branchform is still unknown.

Along the way, Yousaf has had to deal with high-profile defections including former leadership rival Regan going to Alba and MP Lisa Cameron making the switch to the Tories. Angus MacNeil is now an independent after being expelled from the SNP following an argument with chief whip Brendan O'Hara.

Not to mention the recent resignation of former health secretary Michael Matheson following an investigation into running up an £11,000 iPad bill.

READ MORE: SNP councillor quits party over 'incoherent independence strategy'

When it comes to how he is faring, there’s been mixed results. By September, a poll found Yousaf’s popularity had risen since the SNP leadership race, improving from a net rating of -20 to -12.

But polling expert Professor John Curtice recently pointed to his “relative unpopularity” as a key issue for the SNP to overcome, with around one in four of those who voted SNP at the last Westminster election in 2019 believing he is doing a bad job as First Minister.

The biggest test will come of course with the looming General Election, with the party suffering a defeat to Labour in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election and polls so far showing mixed predictions for the SNP - but with suggestions they could win 40 seats. 

A year of personal turbulence

Sturgeon had a long track record of electoral success and as she prepared to exit as first minister, polling found that almost half of Scots had a favourable view of her.

She was the country’s longest-serving first minister and the first woman to hold the post.

However, investigations and inquiries since she stepped down have raised questions over her legacy.

There was her arrest in June as part of Operation Branchform, with the former SNP leader spending seven hours in custody before police released her without charge. She later told journalists she was “certain” she had “done nothing wrong”.

When she turned up at the SNP’s conference in October, she was mobbed by supporters and the media (below).

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But she came under intense scrutiny in the storm of the issue of government WhatsApp messages and their deletion, repeatedly fighting back tears as she gave evidence in a marathon session at the UK Covid Inquiry earlier this month.

Sturgeon remains in Holyrood as an MSP and is now writing a “deeply personal” memoir of her life as she rose from a working-class Ayrshire family to the steps of Bute House, which is expected to be published in 2025.

Changing plans on independence

Before she stepped down, Sturgeon had proposed a plan to use the next General Election as a defacto referendum, which would have seen winning 50%+1 of the vote treated the same as winning a referendum.

The plan triggered some debate within the independence movement and a special conference was subsequently planned for the March to “decide the way forward”.

It was scrapped as a party leadership race instead took place and after Yousaf was elected as the party leader, he held a Convention on Independence in Dundee.

READ MORE: Believe in Scotland announces date for Glasgow independence march

He proposed the SNP should aim only to win the “most seats” at the next General Election as a mandate to open talks with Westminster.

But at the SNP conference in October, delegates backed a changed strategy of winning a majority of Scottish seats at the next General Election.

Meanwhile, work that Sturgeon got underway on publishing a new prospectus with the Building a New Scotland series has continued under Yousaf.

Earlier this month the Scottish Government published the tenth independence white paper focusing on culture after a Yes vote.

The most recent polls show that Sturgeon’s resignation has not impacted on support for independence, with Yes backing reaching 53% according to Ipsos.