THE growing impact of social media on politics will be recognised for the first time in The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards 2013.
A new award - E-Politician of the Year - will be made to the MP or MSP who has tweeted or blogged most effectively over the past 12 months.
The Herald launches the 2013 Awards today with winners in nine categories to be honoured at a ceremony at Edinburgh's Prestonfield House Hotel on November 14. The prestigious awards are supported by RBS Group, ScottishPower Renewables, NVT Group and the Improvement Service, and seek to recognise those who have done most to shape Scottish politics.
For more information about the event, go here
The new award is sure to be a highlight of the eagerly-anticipated ceremony. Social media plays an increasingly important role in politics and will be at the heart of independence referendum campaign which is set to dominate the coming 11 months.
Politicians from all parties have seized on Twitter, Facebook and blogging to share their news with voters, get their message across and challenge opponents. E-politics has become a 24/7 world of robust comment, humour and engagement with followers.
Names in the frame could include Tom Harris, the Labour MP, whose blogs range from transport policy to Doctor Who, the Scottish Greens' leader Patrick Harvie, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, SNP MSP Humza Yousaf and SNP MP Pete Wishart, each a politician with a distinctive and powerful voice on social media.
The judging panel will have an equally difficult task selecting other award winners.
One to Watch, supported by ScottishPower Renewables - the prize for rising stars - may again see the SNP's Mark McDonald in contention, especially after his victory in the Aberdeen Donside by-election, while Labour's Jenny Marra and Kezia Dugdale have earned promotions to Johann Lamont's front bench team.
Finance Secretary John Swinney and colleague Derek Mackay, the Minister in charge of planning, will be strong contenders in The Herald Politics and Business Award, supported by RBS Group.
The judges' deliberations over the Donald Dewar Debater of Year could include Health Secretary Alex Neil and his Labour shadow, the newly-promoted Neil Findlay, in addition to Gavin Brown, the Scots Tories' finance spokesman.
Last year some of the top awards went to politicians behind the Edinburgh Agreement, the deal which paved the way for the referendum, with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon named Scottish Politician of the Year and Michael Moore, until this week Secretary of State for Scotland, the Best Scot at Westminster.
This year, as the parties have turned to the hard slog of campaigning, the awards look more open but Holyrood Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick's ongoing efforts to reform parliament will make her a strong candidate for the main award.
Westminster Scots who have made their mark include Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, who intervened effectively over the crisis in Syria and who has also outlined a thoughtful case for the Union in a series of speeches.
Another contender is sure to be Angus Robertson, the SNP's defence spokesman, who has developed his vision for an independent Scotland's armed forces in the 12 months since proposing, and winning, a historic change in Nationalist policy on Nato.
The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards are now in their 15th year and remain as keenly contested as ever.
Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower Renewables, said: "We are living through some of the most politically significant years in Scotland's history and I congratulate The Herald for their continuous support of this event.
"The awards are one of the highlights of the Scottish political calendar and ScottishPower Renewables is delighted to be once again playing a role in recognising the achievements."
Ken Barclay, head of the RBS Group's corporate banking division in Scotland and chairman of the bank's Scotland board, said: "RBS is delighted to continue our support for the Herald Politics & Business Award. It is vital that politicians and businesses work together to support the economic recovery and we are pleased to support the recognition of those who have worked hard in this area.
"RBS is focused on working closely with both the UK and Scottish Governments on a whole range of initiatives and is committed to supporting communities and businesses all across Scotland."
Stephen Park Brown, managing director of NVT Group said: "NVT Group is delighted to be associated with the Herald Politician of the Year awards by sponsoring the Debater of the Year category for a second year. NVT promotes lively, interesting and thoughtful discourse in the workplace and with our customers."