IT'S been a turbulent year for the SNP and its leader.

There was, as usual, an election win, a constitutional row, and speculation over Nicola Sturgeon's shelf-life. But there was also something new. A stirring of rebellion in the parliamentary ranks.

The year started as it would end, with a dubious position on a referendum.

In her first interview of 2022, Nicola Sturgeon told STV that she intended to do "everything that is within my power" to have Indyref2 by the end of 2023.

It was a telling caveat from the First Minister, who suspected the law was against her, and knew Boris Johnson was too weak and unpopular to agree.

Nevertheless, she promised news on a Referendum Bill "in the coming weeks".

What was definitely in her power, however, was to make the political case for a new vote in light of Brexit and other egregious examples of Tory misrule.

The continued strong showing for Yes through the year suggests that on that score she and her party are still having an impact, although a breakthrough eludes them.

January brought more concrete news on Covid, with Ms Sturgeon lifting the Omicron restrictions which had put a damper on Christmas for many.

Covid also made headlines for the Tories as the year began, but none they wanted.

Scottish leader Douglas Ross called for Mr Johnson to go over Partygate, and was branded a "lightweight" by hulking Tory heavyweight Jacob Rees-Mogg.

In an FMQs to savour, Ms Sturgeon came to his aid. "I have big political differences with Douglas Ross, but even I am not as derogatory about him as his own Tory colleagues," she tutted with a straight face.

The Tories would keep doing the SNP's job for them most of the year, their fratricidal tendencies making Ms Sturgeon look strong and authoritative by default.

But January also saw the UK equalities watchdog urge the First Minister to halt her gender recognition reforms in case they proved damaging to women, an issue that would rumble on at rising volume.

Another long-term headache for Ms Sturgeon was her party at Westminster.

When her loyal group leader, Ian Blackford, started to look gaffe-prone, rebel thoughts turned to replacing him.

February saw him get into a right fankle over pensions policy after independence.

In what would be a familiar pattern, Ms Sturgeon had to step into fix things.

March saw a stooshie over the Scottish National Investment Bank, when what should be a boring business support quango suddenly looked racy and interesting.

Chief executive Eilidh McTaggart quit abruptly, and ministers - the sole shareholders - refused to explain why. Personal reasons, they mumbled, adding to complaints about excessive SNP secrecy.

Tongue-tied economy secretary Kate Forbes was also in the news for launching the Scottish Government's flagship 10-year economic strategy. Trade unions instantly trashed it. Runaway inflation and chaotic UK public finances have diminished its relevance further.

An Audit Scotland report into the CalMac ferries fiasco identified "multiple failings" behind two boats running £180 million over budget and five years late.

It has become a totemic scandal for the SNP - a big deal turning into a big failure, with opposition parties drawing unflattering parallels to independence.

April also saw Ms Sturgeon wriggling over her long-lost Referendum Bill.

Despite saying it was weeks away months ago, she admitted: "I haven't decided on the specific date for that right now". It was clear that something was holding it up.

The local elections were a remarkable result for the SNP. After 15 years in power, it increased its vote share and councillor tally and took the presidency of the council umbrella body Cosla for the first time.

The Tories, despite Mr Ross predicting otherwise, crashed from second place to third. In line with a nationwide revival, Labour under Anas Sarwar came second.

In June, we learned why Ms Sturgeon's Referendum Bill had never made it out of draft from and been laid at Holyrood.

The Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain KC, reckoned it might stray beyond the parliament's legislative competence, and so had refused to sign it off.

Backed into a corner by the UK Government's refusal to re-run 2014 and her most senior law officer's blocking the Bill, the First Minister U-turned.

In 2020, she had explicitly refused to test such a Bill's legality at the Supreme Court.

"The outcome would be uncertain. There would be no guarantees. It could move us forward, but equally it could set us back," she had said then.

But with nowhere else to go, and pressure growing inside the SNP for action, she told MSPs she had persuaded Ms Bain to refer the draft Bill for a ruling on competence from the Court.

Ms Bain's written case argued unconvincingly that Holyrood could stage Indyref2 as its legal effect was "nil", and urged judges to ignore the political fallout.

If the justices gave it the thumbs up, Ms Sturgeon said that Indyref2 would be on October 19, 2023, regardless of Westminster withholding its consent.

If judicial thumbs were down, then she would use the next General Election as a "de facto" referendum on the "single question" of independence.

On one level, it was an uncharacteristic gamble. But it was also a classic piece of SNP doggy-paddling and playing for time.

More process followed in July, with publication of the first instalment of "Building a New Scotland", the new bit-part prospectus for independence.

That only two more parts were published in the following six months suggests public demand has been modest. Questions over currency and a post-Brexit trade border with England remain hanging.

July saw the flipside of the SNP's council election success, as the party's new administration in North Lanarkshire imploded after a sexual misconduct scandal involving leader Jordan Linden.

In a familiar pattern, it emerged SNP bosses had known about accusations against Mr Linden, but failed to dig into them, and didn't ponder if he should be allowed to become a council leader.

SNP HQ is run by Ms Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell, the party's chief executive for the last 20 years.

But the turmoil was nothing compared to that on offer from the Tories, and despite sex scandals involving two SNP MPs, the ousting of Boris Johnson from Downing Street and subsequent leadership contest dominated the headlines all summer.

Still, Ms Sturgeon managed to grab a few during the Edinburgh Fringe, reviving speculation that she intends to step down after the general election likely in 2024.

Not one for rash predictions or slapdash asides, she admitted she may not lead her party into the 2026 Holyrood election.

 "The default position is that of course I'll fight the next election," she told broadcaster Iain Dale. "But I will make a judgment on that nearer the time.

"This is a serious job and anybody in a job like this owes it to the public to make sure that they're the right person to do it, that they've got the energy to do it, that they've got the appetite, that they're prepared to make the enormous commitment that a job like this involves, and to constantly be assessing and reassessing that."

The same week, the SNP's accounts for 2021 claimed the party had already spent more than £250,000 of a £740,000 independencefighting fund being examined by Police Scotland over claims of potential fraud.

The party had also lost a fifth of its members since the pandemic, but with 100,000 was still the UK's third biggest after Labour and the Tories.

The big issue at Holyrood in the autumn was health. Despite Covid receding, A&E waiting time performances kept deteriorating because of bed shortages driven by elderly delayed discharge patients waiting for care packages.

Opposition calls for Mr Sturgeon to sack Health Secretary Humza Yousaf became as regular as news that casualty waiting times had hit a "new record" low point.

Early October saw the SNP conference - with a revealing wave of attacks on Labour as the coming threat - and the Supreme Court hearings on an Indyref2 Bill.

The latter saw the UK Government spend most of its energies trying to have the case dismissed on the grounds that it was premature and improperly referred to the court, almost as if it was confident the substantive arguments were in the bag.

Just over six weeks later, the court accepted the referral was valid, but thoroughly gutted the argument that Holyrood could, if it just tiptoed carefully enough, hold a referendum on the Union.

In a long and you suspected long-prepared statement, Ms Sturgeon accepted the judgment and doubled down on her de facto referendum plan, but was unable to give any detail on how it would work in practice. That was kicked down the road to an SNP conference in the spring - another classic piece of process.

More surprisingly, she addressed a crossparty pro-independence rally outside Holyrood that night and claimed the Yes movement was now "Scotland's democracy movement", the unspoken implication being that if you don't agree with her, you're anti-democratic.

Politics is, after all, the art of chancing your arm.

But a flurry of polls putting Yes ahead suggest the argument is resonating with voters. The Unionist side flounders when asked to say how Scotland can become independent if denied a referendum.

The end of the year was all about the money, as 2022's Chancellor No4 Jeremy Hunt held his gruesome autumn statement and then John Swinney, left, echoed it with his "bleak" budget.

There were also plenty of problems for Ms Sturgeon.

The Stage One vote on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill led to the party's biggest Holyrood revolt, with minister Ash Regan resigning over the issue, while other MSPs defied the whip. Then Ms Sturgeon's MPs revolted and ousted Mr Blackford as their leader.

Unhappy at the First Minister's de facto referendum experiment, they chose a sceptical Stephen Flynn as his replacement, denting her authority.

The potentially unhealthy way the SNP is run was highlighted by news the FM's husband loaned the party £108,000 in 2021 to help its "cash flow" after the Holyrood election. Hardly evidence of efficient management.

Asked by the media if any of that money had been hers, Ms Sturgeon refused to say and bolted up a stairwell.

It emerged the Scottish Government's Supreme Court dud cost £250,000 of public cash. In a surprise twist, ministers blamed Westminster for leaving them no choice.

Finally, the parliamentary session ended with three days of grumpy, stop-start, sometimes ignorant but often impressive debate on the Gender Reform Bill.

It passed comfortably, but not before Ms Sturgeon spent a lot of her political capital in getting it done, many of her MSPs deeply uneasy about backing measures unwanted by most voters and opposing amendments aimed at frustrating sex offenders.

It has been a toxic issue, and the political poison will not drain away quickly.

Ms Sturgeon remain a remarkable and durable politician. In 2022, she saw off her fourth Tory Prime Minister. But it has also been a bruising period of setbacks, revolts and accumulating problems in public services. Next year won't be any easier.

It was an uncharacteristic gamble. But it was also a classic piece of SNP doggy-paddling and playing for time.

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