THE big Scottish story? That high turnout. Folk queuing in the rain, determined to influence how Scotland should be run: their schools, their hospitals, their jobs. Mid crisis, political choice matters.

Put most simply, that could be seen as confirmation of the enhanced salience of devolved politics, underlined by the lead role played by Scottish Ministers throughout this hideous plague. But there is another element.

The bigger Scottish story? The return of the incumbent Scottish Government, together with what that could mean for the future governance of the wider UK. When a lot is at stake, a lot of people turn out.

Results still to come, of course. But let us work for now on the very reasonable assumption that Nicola Sturgeon will be returning to work on Monday as the First Minister of Scotland. What will immediately confront her?

Self-evidently, the Covid crisis – and its concomitant economic challenges. However, along with that, she will have to form a new Cabinet. One third of the previous team stood down at the election.

Read more from Brian Taylor: Parties united by one thing: a desire for voters to 'just move on' 

So Ms Sturgeon will have to govern in future without the sagacious counsel of Aileen Campbell, Roseanna Cunningham, Jeane Freeman and Michael Russell.

Ms Sturgeon may also take the opportunity to reshape her Cabinet’s structure and responsibilities, while preserving gender balance.

That Cabinet exodus is matched in the lower Ministerial ranks and on the back benches. In addition, elections tend to generate involuntary departures. Democracy would not function without such Parliamentary churn, however hard it is for individuals.

All the newbies – on all sides of the chamber – will need to learn, and quickly: not least because the anxious citizens of Scotland want speedy action in the continuing contest with coronavirus. When will we be safe? Where can we go on holiday?

Those decisions are urgent. Ms Sturgeon previously promised that there would be a further liberalisation on May 17, with Scotland generally returning to Level 2 constraints. If we all obey the rules.

As for international travel, the UK Government has now set out its thinking. The Scottish Government has tended to favour a more cautious approach. Again, urgently, Ms Sturgeon will seek to revive a four-nation UK deal.

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Why four nation? Because it is simpler to explain and administer, it deters Scots from heading south of the border to get round Scottish rules: and, bluntly, it provides additional protection for the FM against complaints from Scots who might be super-angry if England gets a more open deal.

In tandem with action on the virus, Ms Sturgeon will return to Ministerial briefing boxes brimming with information about the economy. Here is a hint: the data will not be universally positive.

No doubt her attention will be drawn to a report from the Bank of England forecasting that the UK economy will enjoy record economic growth in 2021, perhaps around 7.25 per cent. That is founded on expectations of higher confidence among consumers, happy with the vaccine numbers.

However, Nicola Sturgeon will need no reminding that this possible uplift follows a calamitous slump last year, when the economy shrank by nearly ten per cent; the most precipitous drop in three centuries.

She knows too that the voters will expect delivery of the spending promises made in her manifesto: more money for health, education, housing and social care. All within a balanced budget, constrained still further by a pledge to freeze Scottish income tax rates and bands.

That promise, mirrored by other parties, was designed to reassure fretful voters. Starting today, it too has to be delivered.

Then there is the related issue of securing Parliamentary support for budget proposals. That depends on the final Holyrood numbers.

If she gains an overall majority, then she has only to sustain discipline in her own ranks. However, if she is dependent once more upon the Greens for budgetary support, there could be some trouble ahead.

The Greens tend to push for radical fiscal change; for example, arguing during the campaign that Scotland should seek ways to tax wealth as well as income.

They will also press Nicola Sturgeon to support swifter curbs on the extraction of North Sea oil. Ministers back a move away from fossil fuels but worry about the immediate impact on jobs, arguing for a just (and thus perhaps more cautious) transition.

If it comes to it, they may have to remind the Greens that big parties have rights too.

Then the fundamental contest. Independence. Boris Johnson is expected to reach out to Scotland with measures designed to promote the Union and stress UK clout. One or two Tories mutter privately that such an initiative might have been handy before the election, not after.

The Prime Minister will also face pressure to spell out whether he would consent to indyref2. But not perhaps immediately. Ms Sturgeon herself is in no particular hurry.

She knows that anxious voters will expect a laser focus on recovering from coronavirus.

More, the FM fully understands that the independence offer in Scotland has always been predicated upon confidence. On taking back control, if you like. Rather than fleeing from a perceived threat.

That is why SNP Ministers have been so keen to govern moderately and sensibly, within existing devolved powers, while simultaneously promoting independence.

Read more from Brian Taylor: Why Nicola Sturgeon offers her supporters Paradise Deferred

Brexit, in particular, may create the conditions for revisiting the independence prospect, not least because Scotland was told that staying in the UK was the only way to retain EU membership.

However, add Brexit to the virus and economic worries. That does not equate to a confident public. Quite the contrary. Voters might feel inclined to keep a-hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse. They might, at the very least, prefer to delay the decision.

Finally, from the political to the personal. Nicola Sturgeon must be simply exhausted. A bizarre yet enervating election on top of endless endeavours to counter coronavirus and sustain the economy.

All that plus Alex Salmond, seemingly at her shoulder for months, leading up to his unwanted offer of Holyrood help in pursuit of independence.

For Nicola Sturgeon, then, time for rest and recuperation. Or, perhaps, not.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.