IT is no exaggeration to say that, aside from the substantial challenges that come from running the country, Scotland's first minister, Humza Yousaf, has faced a teeming mass of external distractions in his first 100 days.

The SNP's legal difficulties, for one: it still seems extraordinary that such a public figure as Nicola Sturgeon was arrested as part of the investigation into the party's finances. Like her husband Peter Murrell, the party's former chief executive, and the SNP's treasurer Colin Beattie, who were also arrested, Ms Sturgeon was released without charge.

The ancient principle of innocent until proven guilty notwithstanding, the episode has sullied the SNP's reputation and has contributed to a marked decline in its popularity. Other factors - internal party disputes, the declared intention of at least six of the SNP's contingent of Westminster MPs to stand down, the lingering controversies over the gender recognition bill and ferry procurement - have fostered a strong impression that the party is no longer a formidable electoral force, with its reputation for competence called in question. Concerns have been expressed too about the influence of the Greens on Scottish Government policy.

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No wonder the main opposition parties at Holyrood are scenting blood. For them, the general election cannot come quickly enough. Should Russell Findlay - currently the Scottish Conservatives' shadow justice secretary - be elevated to the top job in succession to Douglas Ross, as has been forecast in some quarters, the Tories at Holyrood will be much more combative and direct than they are at the moment. First Minister's Questions would become more robust.

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All of this, then, in addition to running the country. But Mr Yousaf has generally acquitted himself well and can be seen as a safe pair of hands, unafraid to ditch or amend policies identified with Ms Sturgeon.

He has told Holyrood that he is willing to compromise on the National Care Service, as he seeks to secure the support of local government and trade unions. MSPs, councils, unions, businesses and charities had all demanded a pause.

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He was quick to shelve his predecessor's proposal for a ban on alcohol advertising. The contentious Deposit Return Scheme was last month abandoned until 2025 in the wake of a bad-tempered row with the UK Government over its remit.

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The proposal to ban fishing in at least ten per cent of Scottish waters under the highly protected marine zones proposal stirred much protest from fishing communities as well as from Mr Yousaf's own frontbench. It was finally dropped, even if it was allowed to live on for too long.

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Mr Yousaf has also sensibly moved to repair external relationships that had become fractious under Ms Sturgeon. Scotland's business community was relieved by his decisions relating to the deposit return scheme and the ban on alcohol advertising, and has responded positively to the establishing of a group aimed at strengthening links between the government and the private sector, with a remit to focus on economic conditions and performance.

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As a leading figure at the Federation of Small Businesses said in May: “Not everything in the garden is rosy, but there are definitely signs that some things are better than they were six months ago".

The First Minister has also tried to re-set relationships with Scotland's beleaguered councils. The Verity House agreement will establish a default position of no ringfencing of funds, something that caused no end of irritation to local authorities in the past. It assembles a fiscal framework governing how local authorities' funding is allocated, and giving councils greater control over their budgets.

All of these are to welcomed, as they demonstrate that Mr Yousaf, while he declined to suspend Ms Sturgeon from party membership after her arrest, is not necessarily beholden to everything that she put in place.

He has done much to promote the independence cause, saying that he would seek negotiations with London on either a second referendum or moving straight to independence talks if the SNP returned a majority of Scotland’s MPs at the next election.

Pro-independence Scots need, after all, to be kept onside and reassured that, despite its recent difficulties, the SNP will fight tooth and nail to see Scotland secede from the United Kingdom. Mr Yousaf's new policy has not however been without its critics, with Professor James Mitchell, a leading authority on the SNP, asserting that it is mired in ambiguity and incoherence.

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Mr Yousaf has encouraged debate amongst his frontbench colleagues and in a new move has hired a hired a new and most capable speechwriter in Laura Westring. These are all to the good, and are signs that the First Minister recognises that a shake-up has been needed in the way the SNP government governs Scotland.

Many serious challenges lie ahead, though, from NHS waiting lists (long a cause of serious concern) to the education attainment gap and the need to finally dual the A9. It is difficult to predict what if any progress he will make on these and other issues. But the realism he has demonstrated thus far, and his willingness to address troublesome policies, are positive and encouraging signs.