ALEX Salmond was remarkably restrained about Nicola Sturgeon when he addressed the media after his court win against her government on Tuesday.

At several times he appeared to be visibly fighting the urge to let rip against his former protegee, who he now refers to privately as Lady Macbeth.

But in a most un-Salmond like fashion, he bit his tongue. 

His sole comment was: “My view of what Nicola Sturgeon should do now is that she should concentrate on achieving independence for Scotland, particularly in the current political circumstance.”

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Some hope. Last week, Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to announce her preferred timetable for a second referendum “very soon”, once the latest phase of Brexit madness was done.

Instead, the First Minister’s plans have been knocked sideways by her predecessor and by her own government’s incompetence. 

It is now clear civil servants royally screwed up the investigation into alleged misconduct by Mr Salmond by installing an investigating officer who had been in contact with his accusers. 

The way the two women have been let down is unforgivable, but the embarrassment for Ms Sturgeon could have passed relatively quickly if Mr Salmond had left it at that.

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But it is very clear that the former first minister is in no mood to go quietly. He means to be avenged. 

Besides his hint at suing for damages  – one of his supporters cites the £750,000 awarded to the mistreated police officer Shirley McKie in 2006 as a useful benchmark – Mr Salmond wants blood. 

 He has repeatedly called for the Scottish Government’s most senior official, the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, to quit for her role in creating the procedure used to investigate him and ultimately overseeing the inquiry. 

Ms Sturgeon will not oblige. She has publicly defended Ms Evans, expressing her “full confidence” in her. 

Ms Sturgeon has also reminded MSPs that she not only signed off the complaints procedure, she also endorsed Ms Evans’s decision to throw in the towel in court. 
If Ms Sturgeon were to give Mr Salmond his scalp, it would make her look weak. 

It would also look as if she had thrown her top official under a bus, sending shivers through the rest of her colleagues. So for now, Ms Evans is likely to stay put.

Mr Salmond is therefore working on another front, taking a keen interest in the future of Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff, Liz Lloyd. 

One of Mr Salmond’s allies –and there are many amplifying his complaints in the media and in private at the moment – says Ms Lloyd is ominously high on his wanted list. 

Ms Sturgeon also has her external opponents to fear. 

Labour’s Richard Leonard and Tory Jackson Carlaw had their best turns at FMQs, and Ms Sturgeon had her worst, as she struggled to explain why she kept having meetings with Mr Salmond when he was under investigation.

Meetings which were magically classed as “party business” yet only seemed to feature a government probe. 

Labour and the Tories plan a Holyrood inquiry, probably hung on the £500,000 legal bill now facing taxpayers, which could grow like knotweed.

It has the potential to pin down the First Minister for months, just when she would rather be occupying the high ground over Brexit and agitating for independence. 

 Ms Sturgeon is also facing calls to refer herself to her outside advisers for a potential breach of the ministerial code.

Given Mr Salmond was investigated six times as FM and cleared each time, failure to do it will look like guilt. 

It is another cloud over her. 

Ms Sturgeon insists she has done nothing wrong, but politics is not that simple.  

The drip-drip of an inquiry can erode reputations. And while the slow poison of infighting could divide, distract and debilitate her party.

The SNP is in for a hell of a year.