DURING the newspaper review on his show yesterday, Andrew Marr interrupted the chat about lifting lockdown and the soap opera shenanigans in Downing Street (“Every day in Number Ten is like an episode of Hollyoaks,” the Mail on Sunday was told).

Marr wanted to draw attention to a certain very important event happening in Scotland this week: Alex Salmond’s appearance before the Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of harassment complaints against the former First Minister.

One paper said the “end game” was approaching in the psychodrama between Mr Salmond and his successor, Nicola Sturgeon, who is expected to give evidence the following week. “That might be over-excited but we’ll see,” said Marr.

There is a lot of anticipation over these proceedings, but how much of the hype should be believed? Is Holyrood about to come of age as a parliament and have its grand, gavel-bashing, flashbulb-popping, “gotcha” committee moment?

Before we get too carried away, Mr Salmond’s appearance is not yet set in stone. It is not even on the Scottish Parliament website listing upcoming business of the committee.

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But given that he made the publication of his submission to the committee a condition of appearing, and the Scottish Parliament’s corporate body has agreed, there would seem to be nothing standing in the way.

What, then, can we expect? Fireworks or a damp squib? As anyone who has watched the workings of committees in the Scottish Parliament and the Commons will know, pyrotechnics are extremely rare.

For every shaving foam pie aimed at Rupert Murdoch, there are tens of thousands of hours filled with the often dull business of extracting information from witnesses.

Not every question is a zinger, as when an MP asked Mike Ashley, founder of Sports Direct, “Do you think your company has outgrown your ability to manage it?”

Still, there is something about a big name giving evidence that adds a certain theatricality to hearings. If nothing else a well-kent face brings out the sketch writers with their thorny barbs and flowery phrases.

A big name brings the media in general. Look what happened when Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress in 2018.

One might have thought Elvis was in the building from the way the Facebook founder was followed to the committee room by dozens of reporters, and even more photographers and camera operators.

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As it turned out, the tech titan’s appearances did not in the end amount to much. Much of that was due to poor questioning by members of Congress, some of whom spoke about the internet as though they had only just learned of it that morning.

If the media and the public tend to have inflated expectations of committee hearings you could blame it on the movies, or on those real-life hearings that really did turn out to be sensational. No-one could say the House Committee on un-American Activities did not have its moments (or ruin some lives).

Then there was the Senate Watergate Committee of summer 1973. This was in many ways the Citizen Kane of hearings, the one that set the standard that no other has matched. Broadcast live across America, it had everything, from larger than life characters to questions that became part of the political lexicon, chief among them Howard Baker’s “What did the President know and when did he know it?”

A more recent example, and one that had observers reaching for Watergate Committee comparisons, was Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. That too made for must see television, not least because the footage of the Capitol mob in action, some of it hitherto unseen by the public, played such a central role in proceedings.

It is a very long way from the Senate Watergate Committee to the likes of SNP chief executive Peter Murrell giving evidence from his home in Glasgow. Yet the everyday settings, and the often virtual format, should not take away from the importance of these sessions.

For all sides – the committee members, the witnesses, the Scottish public who want to know why half a million pounds plus was spent defending a process that was ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias” – there is a lot at stake here.

What chance, however, does this committee have of generating a moment that genuinely illuminates what went on? Given that we already know the outlines of what Mr Salmond will say, and the First Minister’s response to it, there would seem to be no great revelations to come.

That, however, misses the point about committee hearings and their power. What a person says in evidence is important, but just as crucial is how they say it. Previous court proceedings aside, this will be Mr Salmond’s first major opportunity to have his say and be questioned on it by MSPs. That applies even more to Ms Sturgeon, who has consistently shut down questioning on the grounds that the committee should hear from her first.

It has been said of the Salmond-Sturgeon imbroglio that the public does not care that much. The Salmond and Sturgeon evidence sessions will be the the ultimate test of whether that is true. The political is about to get very up close and personal indeed.