LIKE most things before coronavirus, it feels lost in the mists of time. But at the start of 2020, the polls were looking rather sticky for Nicola Sturgeon.

A run of surveys put her personal approval ratings in the red, with more Scots saying she was doing a poor job than a good one.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Sturgeon ahead in Covid battle.Camley's Cartoon: Sturgeon ahead in Covid battle.

Problems in health, education and the economy appeared to be mounting.

Even some on her own side were grumbling after she was forced to backtrack on her plans for a second independence referendum in the face of Boris Johnson’s election win.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister and his 80-seat majority were enjoying a bit of a honeymoon at Westminster.

The UK formally left the European Union on January 31 as promised, and the PM looked about to turn on the spending taps to deliver for his new clutch of northern English seats.

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Even the departure of his Chancellor in a turf war with his top aide, Dominic Cummings, didn’t appear to dent the PM’s reputation, although it would prove to be a sign of Mr Johnson’s dangerous reliance on his adviser.

But since those early months, and despite both taking a broadly similar line through the lockdown and suffering early failures over PPE, testing and care home deaths, the two leaders have swapped fortunes.

Mr Johnson’s approval ratings initially improved during the pandemic, as he showed a hitherto unseen gravitas, warning families they faced the loss of loved ones before their time.

When he was hospitalised with Covid in April, there was widespread public sympathy for his plight and that of his pregnant partner Carrie Symonds.

His ratings crested at plus 40, a huge margin in modern politics, with 66% of people telling YouGov they approved of how he was doing, against just 26% expressing disapproval.

But then things started to go awry.

Mr Johnson was pilloried after trying to replace the concrete “stay home” message with the woolly “stay alert”, and for appearing not to to grasp that his writ on most things Covid didn’t extend beyond England.

Then Mr Cummings struck again when it emerged he had breached the lockdown to drive from London to the family farm in Durham, and then again from Durham to Barnard Castle.

Mr Johnson’s refusal to sack him, despite MPs’ inboxes exploding with anger at Mr Cummings’s contemptuous excuse about driving to test his eyesight, was a PR disaster.

Mr Johnson’s ratings nosedived back into negative territory.

Ms Sturgeon had her wobbly moment too, of course. She tried to hang on to her chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, despite her breaking the lockdown guidance to travel to her second home - a decision that plainly failed the political smell test.

But to the FM’s credit, the CMO was gone by the end of the day the story broke.

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Ms Sturgeon has also earned public respect for slogging through almost all the daily briefings, while Mr Johnson, a better jester but an inferior communicator, largely avoided them.

The more cautious pace of easing the lockdown in Scotland has also chimed better with the public mood, not just here, but across the UK.

A poll last month found most people in every nation and region of the UK thought Scotland had handled the pandemic better than England.

Two other recent polls put support for independence at 54%, its highest for four years, and found the new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was already the most popular choice for PM.

Mr Johnson and Ms Sturgeon’s very different performances in this crisis will have long-lasting consequences.