IT is a frequent complaint of viewers that there is never anything gripping on mainstream television, but the daily briefings by Scotland’s First Minister show such criticism to be nonsense.

Yesterday’s was no exception. There we were on Monday, prepped to expect a return to the worst of the lockdown days. Come Tuesday, a reprieve was being hinted at. Nicola Sturgeon, the head of the Scottish Government, said it was not going to be as bad as the Scottish Government had led us to believe.

But exactly how bad it might be she could not tell us till yesterday. Another sleepless night for those in the pub and restaurant businesses, another evening of checking the travel insurance.

It is a ridiculous way to run a government. On the upside, the waiting took the mind off other matters. Like the growing NHS waiting lists. Or the jobs crisis. Or the woes of a Holyrood inquiry labouring in the foothills of what could turn out to be the biggest political scandal in Scottish history.

Yes, rather sneaked that last one in under the radar there. The inquiry was set up to look into the botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond, the former First Minister, in 2018. After the Court of Session ruled the Scottish Government investigation into his conduct was “unlawful”, Mr Salmond was awarded £512,000 in costs, the bill footed by the taxpayer. It was after this ruling that Mr Salmond was charged with a number of sexual assaults. He was acquitted of all charges.

Both Mr Salmond and the Scottish public were due an explanation as to why the initial complaints had proceeded so far when the process was so clearly faulty. A straightforward matter you might think. Yet it was not long before the cross-party committee found itself being used as a crash test dummy, constantly hitting walls erected by the law, the SNP, and the Scottish Government. Wherever the committee turned the information was unavailable, redacted, or withheld. Adding to the committee’s woes were leaks.

READ MORE: FM's husband defends controversial messages

Yesterday, however, the committee opened the floodgates. Pages of evidence from, among others, Ms Sturgeon, and her husband, the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, were released. It certainly was a busy day at Holyrood. Fortunately, there was still enough time to peruse the documents.

How much the information advances the committee’s aims is not yet clear. Follow-up questions will have to be asked. Yet what a fascinating peek into the nooks and crannies of power the documents afford. One cannot say on this evidence, and the other information assembled by the committee, that there is something rotten in the state of Scottish politics. But as any prudent householder knows, if in doubt, check it out further.

Take, for example, the matter of Mr Murrell’s two WhatsApp messages, the details of which have been reported in newspapers. The first said: “Totally agree folk should be asking the police questions … report now with the PF [Procurator Fiscal] on charges which leaves police twiddling their thumbs. So good time to be pressurising them. Would be good to know Met looking at events in London.”

To the woman on the Castlemilk omnibus, this looks as though the husband of the FM was advocating pressurising, his word, the police into action against Mr Salmond.

Not so, according to Mr Murrell’s evidence. He said the messages were sent the day after Mr Salmond had been charged. The SNP had been contacted by individuals who had questions relating to the criminal case and he felt these questions should be addressed to the police.

“I acknowledge that I did not express myself well,” he wrote, “but I suggest that in the context of such a criminal case, directing people to the police was the only responsible thing to advise.”

In a second message, he said: “TBH the more fronts he is having to firefight on the better for all complainers. So CPS action would be a good thing.”

READ MORE: FM releases text messages with predecessor

Mr Murrell’s explanation? “My intended meaning was that any and all complaints should be appropriately investigated. The tone of it is a reflection of the shock, hurt and upset that I, and so many others in the SNP, felt that day given the events that had unfolded in court the previous day. As most people will appreciate, the immediacy of text messages lend themselves to informal, shorthand forms of expression but, even so, I would wish on reflection to have expressed myself more appropriately.”

There we have it, then. He was not encouraging action against Mr Salmond, he was redirecting callers to the appropriate organisation. He was upset so he misspoke. Nothing to see here, folks, let’s move on.

As for the meetings between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond at the FM’s home, Mr Murrell says: “I had the sense that something serious was being discussed. Nicola told me she couldn’t discuss the details. The nature of Nicola’s job means that when she tells me she can’t discuss something, I don’t press it.”

To even begin to get a handle on how bizarre this situation is, substitute for a moment Boris Johnson for Ms Sturgeon, David Cameron for Mr Salmond, and Mr Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, somehow elevated to the chairmanship of the Tory Party, for Mr Murrell. Can you imagine what people would think?

Or the hue and cry that would go up if Mr Johnson, like Ms Sturgeon, forgot about a crucial meeting, another of yesterday’s revelations?

There is a lot here for the committee to follow up on. It has the determination to do so, but one begins to wonder, given the obstacles placed in its way so far, whether it was ever the right forum for the job. There have been calls, and understandably so, for a judge-led inquiry. But Parliament must be given its place and the committee allowed to finish its work. If it cannot let it say so, loud and clear. Scots, in ever increasing numbers, are listening.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.