In the run-up to the last election, party canvassers reported Nicola Sturgeon was not quite the doorstep asset the SNP had hoped for. To many voters, she was simply “that bloody woman”.

The First Minister fully lived up to the epithet with her reshuffle yesterday, as the steps of Bute House ran with ministerial gore.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown was given a £42,000 pay cut and sent to spend more time with SNP members as deputy party leader.

“Just as Nicola manages as party leader and First Minister, I think I can manage as depute leader and Economy Secretary,” he said earlier this month.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon wields the axe and brings in new blood in Cabinet reshuffle

Ms Sturgeon thought not.

Communities Secretary Angela Constance and Health Secretary Shona Robison sent resignation letters, but as both were on the cusp of a sacking, the instantly accepted mail reeked of artifice.

Indeed, Ms Constance’s letter didn’t actually explain why she felt the urge to quit – a pretty clear indication she didn’t want to go.

There was also the so-called “bonfire of the nobodies”, the exit of the relatively anonymous ministers Dr Alasdair Allan, Annabelle Ewing and Maureen Watt (Google them).

Ms Watt, the minister for mental health, had made the error of not staying anonymous, drawing flak for failing to deliver a long overdue suicide prevention strategy.

Besides the exits there was also an effective demotion for Michael Matheson, moved sideways from Justice to Transport after years of turmoil at Police Scotland and his bungled attempt to shoehorn British Transport Police officers into the single force.

READ MORE: Economy Secretary out in Sturgeon reshuffle

But the blood-letting was more than offset by a transfusion of new talent to the Cabinet, with promotions for Humza Yousaf, Jeane Freeman, Aileen Campbell and Shirley-Anne Somerville, and a return to Cabinet rank for Brexit Minister Michael Russell.

The changes also create nine vacancies on the ministerial rungs, which are due to be filled today.

That means a long overdue move up for the frustrated talent of the 2016 intake such as Kate Forbes, Gail Ross, Ivan McKee, Tom Arthur, Mairi Gougeon, Ben Macpherson and Clare Haughey.

The latter, a former mental health nurse, is set to replace Ms Watt.

It is easily the broadest, most dramatic reshuffle since 1999. Even Jack “the knife” McConnell’s sacking of four ministers when he became Labour First Minister in 2001 doesn’t compare.

Critics will say it is a desperate measure to spruce up a tired 11-year-old government.

It is undoubtedly meant to signal the SNP still has energy and ideas, and that will do the Government no harm. But it also has a long-term strategic aspect to it.

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Ms Sturgeon has never shown much appetite for reshuffles. Until this week, she had made only one change since the 2016 election, and that was forced by childcare minister Mark McDonald quitting over inappropriate conduct.

This, then, is the team she intends to keep with her until the 2021 election, the team she hopes can persuade voters to re-elect the SNP for a fourth term, the team she hopes can deliver a mandate for a second independence referendum. No pressure, then.

Those who have signed up to the task will need no reminders of the First Minister’s willingness to wield the axe should they fail.