The First Minister, Alex Salmond, has been in office now for more than five years, but last week was, by common agreement his most difficult yet.
The SNP leader was accused of being a "bare-faced liar" by Labour over his account of the Government's legal advice on the complex matter of whether or not Scotland would be allowed to remain in the European Union after independence.
The First Minister had seemed to suggest in a television interview in March that he had advice from the Government's law officers to the effect that membership of the EU would be guaranteed, subject to negotiation. But last week, his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, announced in Parliament that there was no such advice.
We can see no reason why the EU would try to block Scotland, or indeed, England, from remaining in the European Union, after a democratic referendum. But our continued role in the EU is not the central issue of the opposition's attack on the First Minister. They see an opportunity to convince the voters that Salmond is untrustworthy, arguing that if he cannot be believed on the issue of the Europe advice, what other First Minister's statements must now be doubted.
Salmond has announced an inquiry into whether or not he had broken the ministerial code, but that is unlikely to take the sting out of opposition attacks. So far, it appears that the First Minister has been given the benefit of the doubt on this issue in the court of public opinion.
Certainly, the opposition parties have failed to ignite great public anger over the confusion surrounding his non-existent legal advice.
In some respects, this could appear to be a relatively trivial matter. However, Scotland's place in Europe is anything but trivial, and it would serve Scotland's best interests if all our political parties devoted as much energy to engaging in constructive debate about Scotland's future in, or out, of Europe as they have in mudslinging.
There are, though, lessons for the Government in the way it has handled this affair. Whatever impression the First Minister thought he was giving during that now infamous TV interview, it is certainly the case that the Government thereafter tried to use the courts to prevent disclosure after the Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew, called on it to reveal whether or not the legal advice existed.
It was wrong to have used the courts in this way, and Nicola Sturgeon was right to have abandoned the litigation last week.
We have a right to expect open and transparent Government and if this sorry episode encourages the Government to abandon its tendency towards secrecy it will have served a useful purpose.
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