The political fall-out from Alex Salmond’s acquittal will be immense, more than any conviction, which would have put paid to his credibility.

Now the former First Minister, who always said he was the victim of political scheming, can hit back against the people he blames for the “nightmare” of the last two years – Nicola Sturgeon and those in her orbit.

Were it not for the coronavirus crisis, the SNP would today almost certainly be on the cusp of an all-out civil war.

The personal animosity between Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon would be compounded with a simmering political row over how fast to pursue a second independence referendum.

As things stand, the confrontation between the First Minister and her predecessor is on hold, although guerilla skirmishes are still likely.

But when the epidemic subsides and the 2021 Holyrood election arrives, battle can commence in earnest.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond prepares for fightback after trial verdict

Mr Salmond signalled his intentions as soon as he walked out of the High Court in Edinburgh a free man.

“There is certain evidence that I would have liked to have seen led in this trial, but for a variety of reasons we were not able to do so. At some point that information, that facts and that evidence will see the light of day.”

Sources have already told The Herald that Mr Salmond is set to instruct his trial lawyers, Levy & McRae, to take legal action against the Scottish Government over its handling of the complaints against him.

Now the trial has finished, some of what he wanted led in court can be reported for the first time.

At a preliminary hearing in January, the defence Mr Salmond hoped to use was laid out by his QC, Gordon Jackson, before trial judge Lady Dorrian.

As Mr Salmond sat in the dock, Mr Jackson went through the lines of questioning he wanted to take with female complainers in the case, a standard legal step given the sensitivity involved in questioning them.

Mr Jackson said it was a “very unusual case” from a “political bubble”.

At its heart was the Scottish Government’s botched in-house investigation into two complaints of sexual misconduct against Mr Salmond when he was First Minister.

After news of the investigation leaked in August 2018, Mr Salmond launched a judicial review into how the Scottish Government ran this investigation.

On 8 January 2019, Mr Salmond won the review after ministers admitted it had been flawed from the outset.

Because the investigating official had been in prior contact with the two complainers, the whole process was deemed to have been unfair, unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”.

Mr Salmond claimed at the time there had been a conspiracy. “Some people are very clearly very anxious to remove me now as a political threat, which is why this is probably not over,” he said.

Mr Salmond’s legal team intended to claim this humiliation for Ms Sturgeon’s government spurred a coordinated campaign to discredit him.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon faces 'profound questions of integrity' after Alex Salmond acquittal

At the preliminary hearing, Mr Jackson estimated the “shambles” had cost taxpayers up to £1 million in legal fees.

He said people working in the Government, deeply unhappy at the judicial review outcome, therefore “turned their attention very directly to the criminal process”.

These people “with a clear motivation sought to influence that process in order to discredit the former First Minister”, Mr Jackson said.

He said there was a “concerted effort” made by people within the Government to advance the criminal process “as best they could”.

He said people who did not want to be part of a criminal inquiry, or did not think any crime had been committed against them, or want to complain, were “encouraged to complain”.

He said the “prime mover” was one of the complainers in the indictment.

At a further hearing in Glasgow in February, Mr Jackson also quoted a text message from one complainer to an SNP employee: “Jeez, think [a complainer] is in trouble. [Salmond] isn’t going to stop until he gets her and he’s bringing down Nicola on the way.”

After considering Mr Jackson’s proposed questioning, Lady Dorrian disallowed much of it and the judicial review barely featured in the trial.

His legal team constrained, Mr Salmond pushed the conspiracy theory when giving his own evidence, saying some allegations were “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose”, while others were “exaggerations”.

Besides Mr Salmond’s desire for revenge, Ms Sturgeon also faces two crucial inquiries into her conduct related to the judicial review.

After the Government’s case collapsed in 2019, Ms Sturgeon insisted that she had, rightly, not known about the in-house probe taking place.

She said Mr Salmond had informed her about it himself when he visited her Glasgow home in April 2018.

She told MSPs the meeting had been a purely “party” matter, not a government one, and so there was no need to have officials present or to report it to her private office – a potential breach of the ministerial code which will now be investigated.

However, at the trial, Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, who brokered the meeting, said he met Ms Sturgeon in her Holyrood office a few days earlier, something she has never revealed.

A Holyrood committee inquiry set up after the review will want to know if Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon’s husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, is also facing calls from Mr Salmond’s outriders for an inquiry into how the party handled complaints against the former leader. Ms Sturgeon last night said coronavirus had to come first.