Three members of the SNP cabinet are vying for Holyrood's top award in tonight's Scottish Politician of the Year.

First Minister Alex Salmond faces competition from his deputy, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, and his predecessor, Finance and Sustainable Growth Secretary John Swinney.

This is the first time one party has been guaranteed the top award, reflecting 2007 as the breakthrough year for the SNP. Mr Salmond has already won an award for Outstanding Political Achievement, though that was seven years ago.

This year sees the introduction of a new category in the awards, organised for the ninth year by The Herald. The International Scot Award recognises those who contribute to public life on the international stage.

Contenders this year are Scotland's Tartan Army, for their ambassadorial role in projecting a positive image of Scotland abroad, plus the charitable work the Tartan Army carries out when its members go to away matches; Sir Tom Hunter, the retail and property entrepreneur who has dedicated his millions to help tackle poverty in Africa; and Black Watch, a production by the National Theatre of Scotland, on a highly controversial and political subject. On its US tour, it has been proving a showcase of the best Scottish culture.

Results will be announced tonight at a gala dinner in Edinburgh's prestigious Prestonfield House.

SNP Commons leader and campaign co-ordinator Angus Robertson, is in the running for the Best Scot at Westminster category, but faces daunting competition from Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling.

The Scottish Politician of the Year awards are sponsored by Diageo, Eaga, Microsoft, Keppie Design and Ukio Bankas.

The contenders

SCOTTISH POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR Alex Salmond (SNP) Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) John Swinney (SNP) BEST SCOT AT WESTMINSTER Gordon Brown (Labour) Alistair Darling (Labour) Angus Robertson (SNP) DONALD DEWAR DEBATER OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Eaga Tavish Scott (LibDem) Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) John Swinney (SNP) ONE TO WATCH Sponsored by Microsoft Jackie Baillie (Lab) Derek Brownlee (Con) Elizabeth Smith (Con) FREE SPIRIT OF THE YEAR George Foulkes (Lab) Christine Grahame (SNP) Margo MacDonald (Ind) INTERNATIONAL SCOT AWARD Sponsored by Keppie Design Black Watch, National Theatre of Scotland Sir Tom Hunter The Tartan Army PUBLIC CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Ukio Bankas Farepak savers' campaign Haemophilia Forum ICL Plastics/Stockline Factory Support Group LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD Sponsored by Diageo To be announced tonight. Judges Charles McGhee, editor of The Herald; Douglas Fraser, The Herald; Iain MacWhirter, The Herald; Paul Hutcheon, Sunday Herald; Colin Mackay, Emap Radio; Joe Quinn, Press Association; Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland. Previous winners

Top awards at Holyrood and Westminster 2006 Andy Kerr and Angus MacNeil 2005 George Reid and Des Browne 2004 Margaret Curran and Sir Menzies Campbell 2003 George Reid and Robin Cook 2002 Malcolm Chisholm and Alistair Darling 2001 Jack McConnell and John Reid 2000 Jim Wallace and Gordon Brown 1999 Donald Dewar and Gordon Brown