THE shortlist for The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards 2012 is unveiled today.
Nearly 30 MSPs, MPs, councillors and campaigners who made their mark on a momentous year in politics have been recognised.
They include established ministers, rising stars and the awards' youngest ever nominee: schoolgirl Martha Payne, whose campaign for tastier school meals in Argyll became a mission to help children in Malawi.
The winners in eight categories will be announced at a ceremony at Edinburgh's Prestonfield House Hotel on November 15.
The prestigious awards, supported by ScottishPower Renewables, RBS Group, NVT Group and the Improvement Service, are in their 14th year. Full details here
The shortlist reflects a year dominated by the independence referendum, council elections, the Government's pledge to allow same-sex marriage and Labour's efforts to bounce back after its election defeat in 2011.
Labour leader Johann Lamont and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have been nominated for the top award, the Scottish Politician of the Year, presented by The Herald.
In addition to repositioning Scottish Labour on universal entitlements, Ms Lamont has emerged as a thorn in Alex Salmond's side in First Minister's Questions and is pushing through internal party reforms.
Ms Sturgeon steered the flagship minimum alcohol price policy through Holyrood and was put in charge of the Scottish Government's independence drive in a reshuffle that made her the "Yes Minister".
The third nominee is Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick, whose efforts to reform Holyrood and make ministers more account-able impressed the judges.
In the Best Scot at Westminster category, LibDem Treasury chief Danny Alexander, Labour's shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex and LibDem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore have all been shortlisted.
Mr Alexander, the most high-profile Scot in the cabinet for most UK voters, remains at the heart of the Coalition's economic strategy.
Mr Greatrex has made an impact challenging the big energy firms on price rises, while being the only MP to volunteer as an Olympics Gamesmaker.
Mr Moore delivered the new Scotland Act, bringing income-tax powers to Holyrood, and negotiated the Edinburgh agreement paving the way for a Yes/No referendum in 2014.
In contention for the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year award, supported by NVT Group, are Kenny MacAskill, Willie Rennie and SNP backbencher Dennis Robertson.
Mr MacAskill was nominated for an electrifying speech to the SNP conference urging delegates to drop the party's longstanding opposition to Nato. They did, by 29 votes, and the Justice Secretary's contribution was widely credited with sparing Alex Salmond's blushes.
Scots LibDem leader Mr Rennie has been recognised for his fearless interventions at First Minister's Questions.
Mr Robertson made a moving speech on the tragic death of his daughter Caroline, 19, last year, in a Holyrood debate about eating disorders. The issue moved to the top of the agenda thanks to his intervention.
The One to Watch award, supported by Scottish Power Renewables, is for Holyrood's rising stars and is between the SNP's local government minister Derek Mackay, Labour's Jenny Marra, and Humza Yousaf, promoted into Mr Salmond's government this year as external affairs minister.
A new category has been introduced, the Politics in Business Award, supported by RBS Group, recognising politicians who have engaged with Scotland's business community.
Tory MSP Gavin Brown is in contention for his efforts on Holyrood's economy committee. Edinburgh MPs Mike Crockart (LibDem) and Mark Lazarowicz (Lab) have been nominated jointly for their behind-the-scenes work bringing the Green Investment Bank to the capital.
In a second cross-party joint nomination, Dundee MPs Stewart Hosie (SNP) and Jim McGovern (Lab) have been recognised for supporting the city's computer games industry. Their efforts helped ensure tax breaks were included in the Budget.
The Scottish Local Politician of the Year category, supported by Improvement Service, features three Labour councillors who led their parties to victory in the council elections: Andrew Burns in Edinburgh, Barney Crockett in Aberdeen and Gordon Matheson in Glasgow. David Parker, the Independent leader of ScottishBorders Council, completes the shortlist.
Martha Payne, whose school meals blog became a global sensation and helped raised more than £100,000 for the Mary's Meals charity in Malawi, is shortlisted in the Public Campaign or Campaigner of the Year award.
The other nominees come from opposite sides of the same-sex marriage debate: the Equality Network, which campaigned for a change in the law, and Scotland for Marriage, which mobilised thousands of churchgoers against the move.
One of the most intriguing categories for the judges was Political Impact of the Year. In the running is Ms Lamont, whose bold decision to question the fairness and affordability of popular Government giveaways refocused the political debate away from the referendum and back on to day-to-day policies.
Angus Robertson, the SNP's Westminster leader, was behind his party's decision to throw off its opposition to Nato. And Ms Sturgeon was shortlisted for her historic decision to press ahead with legislation allowing same-sex marriage.
The judges are: Magnus Llewellin, Deputy Editor, The Herald (chair); Liz Cameron, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce; Amanda McMillan, Managing Director, BAA Glasgow Airport; Brian Taylor, Political Editor, BBC Scotland; Magnus Gardham, Group Political Editor, Herald & Times; Tom Gordon, Scottish Political Editor, Sunday Herald; Colin Mackay, Political Editor, Bauer Scotland.
The SNP have taken the top award in four of the past five years: Alex Salmond (2007 and 2011); John Swinney (2009); and Nicola Sturgeon (2008). Labour's Hugh Henry won in 2010.
The 2012 shortlist
Scottish Politician of the Year
Johann Lamont MSP (Lab)
Tricia Marwick MSP (Presiding Officer)
Nicola Sturgeon MSP (SNP)
Best Scot at Westminster
Danny Alexander MP (LibDem)
Tom Greatrex MP (Lab)
Michael Moore (LibDem)
Donald Dewar Debater of the Year, supported by NVT Group
Kenny MacAskill MSP (SNP)
Willie Rennie MSP (LibDem)
Dennis Robertson MSP (SNP)
One to Watch, supported by Scottish Power Renewables
Derek Mackay MSP (SNP)
Jenny Marra MSP (Lab)
Humza Yousaf MSP (SNP)
Politics in Business Award, supported by RBS Group
Gavin Brown MSP (Con)
Mike Crockart MP (LibDem) and Mark Lazarowicz MP (Lab and Co-op)
Stewart Hosie MP (SNP) and Jim McGovern MP (Lab)
Scottish Local Politician of the Year, supported by Improvement Service
Andrew Burns (Lab)
Barney Crockett (Lab)
Gordon Matheson (Lab)
David Parker (Ind)
Public Campaign or Campaigner of the Year
Scotland for Marriage
Political Impact of the Year
Johann Lamont MSP (Lab)
Angus Robertson MP (SNP)
Nicola Sturgeon MSP (SNP)