Praised by judges for his handling of the ­economic crisis, Mr Swinney saw off the challenge from last year’s winner, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who dominated the headlines over the summer following his controversial decision to grant compassionate release on health grounds to the man convicted of the ­Lockerbie bombing.

Mr Swinney not only took the top prize as Scottish Politician of the Year, presented by The Herald, but also the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year award, sponsored by eaga.

Referring to Mr MacAskill’s decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, Donald Martin, editor-in-chief of the Herald & Times Group, ­conceded that many thought his conduct in taking this very difficult decision might have earned him the top award.

“However, in his own words, it was a quasi-judicial decision so not entirely political,” said Mr Martin. “His record on other issues such as licensing and his comments over prisoners who had absconded also weakened the case for him.

“John Swinney, on the other hand, has handled a very difficult brief in the teeth of the ­recession really well and thoroughly deserved to be named Scotland’s Politician of the Year.”