IT’S no wonder support for independence is on the rise – Humza Yousaf is storming his premiership.

The SNP leadership race was intense ... for members and spectators alike. Following the somewhat shock departure of arguably the most influential political figure in Scotland’s recent history, the party and the country were on shaky ground awaiting the next chapter.

It had the potential to take the SNP and, consequently, the country in one of two ways. While I appreciate there were three candidates in the running, it was evident from the get-go that it was a two-horse race.

A two-horse race between two very different candidates. One further to the left than the party’s position at that time, and the other further to the right. It was a huge moment for the SNP – amid tensions around indyref2 and gender recognition reform, whatever choice the SNP made was surely a message to the masses around the kind of party it is and aspired to be in the future.

Prior to his election, opponents of Humza Yousaf’s bid tried to paint him as the couldn’t candidate. A candidate that couldn’t succeed in government, that hadn’t succeeded in the past. They cast doubt on his ability to bring the party back together, and were adamant that he was the continuity candidate – coming behind Nicola Sturgeon to continue business as usual.

In the short few months since his election, he’s proven them spectacularly wrong on all accounts.

I was always a supporter of a Humza leadership bid. Even prior to Nicola Sturgeon’s departure, I viewed him as the natural next step for the party. But, admittedly, I was hesitant to accept the change. In hindsight, I probably did view him as the continuity candidate – which is what subconsciously I must have found appealing given the options presented to me.

Sturgeon had fronted the party for almost as long as I had been in it and she had been such a beacon of inspiration to me in the most pivotal and transformative period of my life. I didn’t want the party to change, in my opinion, for the worse. While I did want Nicola Sturgeon to be more radical and less careful, I wasn’t about to swing in the opposite direction entirely, and I thought Humza could fill her shoes.

What I missed was that, although a powerhouse of her time, Nicola Sturgeon is first minister no more. It was not Humza’s job to fill her shoes, but to make the job his own – and that he has done.

People love to troll me on Twitter for being an “SNP grifter” – whatever that actually means – and I find it amusing because actually if you look at what I’ve said over the course of the 10 years I’ve been an activist, I have been critical of the SNP on many occasions, and have never shied away from this whenever I’ve found it necessary.

I have remained a member and a voter, at times hanging on by a thread, but I have been openly critical on a number of issues. One of them being that I just didn’t think the party was radical enough. I appreciate that the party of government can’t throw promises around with no realistic way of delivering on them in the way that other – ahem – less successful parties might indulge themselves in. But I always was of the opinion that the SNP played it far too safe, and almost for fear of rocking the boat, took the middle ground too often.

Gender recognition reform being the prime example – a policy that was SNP policy, as decided by the party’s members, and as was supported by the majority of the public. It should never have been left to rumble on for as long as it did, and actually, the party’s failure to address it emphatically and meaningfully allowed it to become the moral panic of epic proportions that it has unfortunately morphed into.

I got into politics because I believe the country needs radical change – and we are so far into the tangled depths of decades of Westminster failure that radical is the only way out. Scotland needs unapologetically fearless policy – policy that does rock the boat and for all the right reasons. I don’t believe any great political power in history has ever achieved anything worthwhile for their people by playing it safe. Nothing worthwhile ever comes to fruition in the middle ground or the comfort zone.

Humza Yousaf is proving himself to be that leader. In just a few short months, we’ve seen commitment to groundbreaking levels of funding to tackle child poverty. Neurodivergent people are finally going to grasp change with the Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill. Scotland’s first safe drug consumption room is set to open in Glasgow – and we’re moving towards a decriminalisation stance. Rent controls, campaigned on for decades, will come to fruition under his leadership.

And not only has he got the policy nailed, his likeability and rapport with the public is deeply refreshing – a rarity that politics doesn’t often afford us.

Despite inheriting leadership of the SNP at their worst time in the past decade, Yousaf is taking his role and fearlessly running with it for the better of the people he serves. The very definition of what a political leader should be – and the very leader Scotland needs in these muddy and uncertain times.

I’m not alone in my praise for him either. Support for the SNP is stable and hasn’t declined nearly as much as opposition would like it to have. Support for independence is on the rise because Scotland is starting to see what independence could actually mean. He’s focusing less on the bureaucracy of independence and more on the policy base that will win us that referendum when it comes.

This is a strategy that should be feared by opponents – and a strategy that is working in real time. Just yesterday, he was announced on the coveted TIME 100 list of emerging leaders.

The world is watching – and Humza Yousaf is leading the way.