The escalating row over the handling of the Alex Salmond affair had the columnists twitching on Sunday. Here is The Herald’s pick of the views.

Mail on Sunday

Ruth Davidson said that the SNP was "up to its neck in sleaze" over the Alex Salmond affair describing it as "disgusting, pathetic and immoral".

The leader of the Conservative Party in the Scottish Parliament accused Nicola Sturgeon of seeking "at every turn to frustate" efforts to find the truth over how the inquiry into the handling of the affair was botched.

A committee of MSPs is investigating the government's handling of two harassment claims against the former first minister, after he successfully challenged the complaints process in court.

Mr Salmond won a £500,000 expenses payout from the government after it admitted acting unlawfully through its botched investigation.

In January 2019, Mr Salmond was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, including attempted rape. He was cleared of all 13 charges - all alleged to have happened while he was first minister - after a trial last March.

Ms Davidson talked of thousands of pounds being spent coaching civil servants over answers, ministers refusing to hand over evidence, and questions about "off-book" meetings and calls between Mr Salmond and the First Minister about the case.

But it was the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body's declaration that recent legal manoeuvres cleared the way for the release of Mr Salmond's testimony to the inquiry into the botched handling of complaints against him and the SNP's angry reaction to that, that drove Ms Davidson's latest column.

"The whole thing reeks of coverup and double-dealing," she wrote. "And at its black heart is the entire SNP leadership, culpable and responsible for failing women, tainting government and parliamentary processes, and a towering hubris that they simply don't have to answer for their own actions.

"The idea that the SPCB - an all-party panel of members charged with leaving their political allegiances at the door - is in some way acting irregularly by its straight appraisal of a court ruling is desperate and offensive. This isn't Sturgeon vs Salmond or the complainers vs the system. This is the SNP up to its neck in sleaze, throwing mud at anyone else it sees and using the women that they have already failed as a human shield.

"It is disgusting. It is pathetic. It is immoral. But from what we've seen already in this case, it is utterly true to form."

The Sunday Times

Political columnist Alex Massie argued that complainants in the fall out over dismissed sexual misconduct claims made against Alex Salmond have have become "pawns" and have been hit by a "toxic" political cross-fire.

Mr Massie wrote that opposition MSPs and Sturgeon loyalists alike have "every incentive" to use the women who made the complaints —and the Scottish government's "failure" to do right by them as weapons in a "broader political struggle".

"For their part, however, the first minister and her allies seem happy to hide behind the women," he said. "They are to be used as human shields protecting Sturgeon against potential embarrassment. There are real issues surrounding the possibility of inadvertently publishing information that might lead to the complainers' identification, but there are also real reasons for demanding transparency. There is a clash of competing public interests, here. It is hard to banish the suspicion the government has used the women's rights to anonymity as means of parrying legitimate inquiry. Here, too, the women are only pawns.

"There is enough blame here for almost everyone to own a piece of it. The Scottish government failed the women who put their trust in it to investigate their complaints competently, and now they have been failed anew by the Scottish parliament, whose committee process is abundantly incapable of fulfilling its remit. More than that, however, they have been let down by a culture that is both vindictive and censorious. Amid everything else here, that is something which should not be forgotten."