IT was as if she had never been gone. Or arrested.

In the most hyped comeback since Return of the Jedi, Nicola Sturgeon rose once more to speak in the Holyrood chamber today and effortlessly eclipsed her successor.

She may have been squeezed into the fourth row back, but while you can take the politician off the front bench, you can’t take the front bench out of the politician.

In her command of the room, verbal skill, and the goo-goo eyed adoration of SNP MSPs, she remained in a league of her own.

Intriguingly, the former First Minister sat beside the woman who might be the next one, Kate Forbes.

The pair chatted obliviously during a debate on something or other that Humza Yousaf had done the day before. Oh yes, deliver the Programme for Government.

Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher tried her best to rile the star attraction.

“I think it is quite telling that Nicola Sturgeon is taking part in this debate to defend her prodigy’s plan, because she pretty much wrote every policy in this document.”

Ms Sturgeon rolled her eyes and brushed it aside as one might a dandelion seed. 

Then it was her turn to speak.  

Every Nat behind swivelled in her direction. Five cabinet secretaries turned their seats 180 degrees to stare. Mr Yousaf, if anyone cares, was absent.

Ms Sturgeon humbly reminded us it was her first speech in parliament since stepping down as FM, and the first Programme for Government to lack her deft touch in 17 years.

“Certain things look different – perhaps clearer - from here than from the trenches of the political frontline,” she mused.

Sour Tory and Labour MSPs tried furiously to resist glancing in her direction.

Ms Gallacher walloped a phone, Dame Jackie Baillie was spellbound by a laptop.

Tory Roz McCall daringly intervened to ask about progress on the Promise, a pledge for young people in care which is dear to Ms Sturgeon’s heart.

“Does the minister agree...” she asked. Ms Sturgeon did not correct her. 

She did however accept her “share of responsibility for the state of our political discourse”, and laid down a set of principles everyone better follow to fix her mess.

As the lecture dragged on, deputy Presiding Officer Annabelle Ewing called time.

“First Minister, you will need to conclude,” she whimpered like the old days, before hastily correcting herself. "Sorry, Nicola Sturgeon you will need to conclude."

John Mason rocked with laughter like Oor Wullie on his bucket.

As Ms Sturgeon wound up, the SNP press office compounded the déjà vu by emailing out a full copy of her speech, something unheard of for standard backbench riff-raff. 

To a storm of applause from her old troops, the former FM ended by saying she looked forward to making many more such contributions.

Mr Yousaf must be thrilled.