If nothing else, it was a masterclass in how to present a case. Alex Salmond’s six-hour Holyrood epic was coherent, unemotional, authoritative and convincing. Few of us could get through such a public ordeal and not put a foot wrong. He is a 66-year-old man with a chest condition and a number of other health issues.

But the former First Minister wasn’t asking any favours or concessions, nor did he dissolve into tearful self-pity. There was no whingeing, complaining, flannelling or bickering.

He stuck rigidly to the facts and allowed them, largely, to speak for themselves, having already delivered his thunderous J’accuse about a “deliberate malicious, prolonged and concerted effort” by senior figures in the SNP to destroy his reputation and put him in jail.

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Those are astonishing allegations –scarcely believable even for his supporters. So, Mr Salmond had to demonstrate first of all that he wasn’t a raving fantasist living in “an alternate reality”. Team Sturgeon’s approach has been to portray Salmond as a conspiracy theorist, like Donald Trump, making incoherent allegations without any factual support. “It’s all about his ego,” she says.

Whatever else he is, the Rt Hon Alex Salmond is no Donald Trump. He was fluent and measured and in command of a bewildering armoury of dates and documentation. This included testifying under oath to the existence of incriminating documents he had seen which have been censored by the Crown Office. And if the committee wants to see them, he said, just contact my lawyers.

Salmond said the evidence “already in the public domain” demonstrated that there was a malicious “fishing expedition” – collusion – to procure complaints even after the police investigation had started. Mr Salmond had quoted messages from the First Minister’s husband, Peter Murrell, apparently pressuring the police. His submission had also quoted a message from an official talking about how they would “get him [Salmond]”.

He went on to quote one of the complainants who had refused to come to a meeting because she felt “pressurised not supported”. Then a text from SNP official Sue Ruddick, calling for another woman accuser to be “got back in the game”. Another text from an official read: “ask the police what they want and we’ll get it for them”. He quoted from his trial evidence an SNP figure saying: “I have a plan by which we can remain anonymous.”

The Salmond submission also included a sworn statement from an SNP lawyer, Anne Harvey, accusing SNP HQ of conducting a “witch hunt” against Mr Salmond in 2018. Much of that testimony has been redacted. Mr Salmond claimed repeatedly, under oath, that he had seen further corroborating evidence which the committee was not being allowed to see because it had been censored. None of it, he insisted, broke the anonymity of complainants.

The last hour-and-a-half of the hearing was the most dramatic, and challenging, though many in the press and the viewing public had probably lost interest by that stage. Those 90 minutes, however, will be minutely examined by lawyers and historians. Was he sorry? For the women? For his behaviour? Salmond refused to be drawn into this saying that he had been exonerated of all charges by a jury. The court of public opinion will make up its own mind but whatever Ms Sturgeon says this week, it will be hard for her to claim that there is “not a shred of evidence”.

Unsurprisingly, the press and most of the committee members homed in on the contested meetings between Ms Sturgeon, Mr Salmond, his aides and others in March/April 2018. The First Minister has had a significant memory lapse here. The Conservatives think that her lack of candour about what she knew and when she knew it could lead to Ms Sturgeon having to resign for breaking the Ministerial Code and lying to Parliament.

Significantly, Mr Salmond did not call for the FM’s resignation – the BBC’s Scotland editor, Sarah Smith, did that for him on the Six O’Clock News, and had to apologise later. He did say that the First Minister broken the Ministerial Code. The evidence for this was in censored passages from his submission, which he again insisted did not reveal the identity of any complainants.

MSPs also wanted to know whether the name of one of those complainants had been leaked unlawfully to one of his aides in the course of those meetings.

It had, Mr Salmond said, contradicting Nicola Sturgeon’s assertion to the contrary at First Minister’s Questions last week. They also wanted to know whether he had tried to enlist Nicola Sturgeon, as she put is, to “brush the complaints under the carpet”. He said that he had indeed urged her to intervene – and that she indicated she would – to ensure that the harassment investigation, conducted by her civil servants was lawful.

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Mr Salmond said he warned the First Minister that the investigation was NOT lawful and advised her to take the matter to mediation. She didn’t. It went to the Court of Session instead, and the Scottish Government was ruled to have acted “unlawfully, and with apparent bias”. A “catastrophic” and costly outcome which he said should have been avoided. Mr Salmond went on to allege, again under oath, that the Scottish Government’s own lawyers had told them in the autumn of 2018 that they were going to lose the Court of Session case.

There was revealing insight here into the way in which such complaints are handled, post-Me Too, in large organisations like the civil service. Mr Salmond was presented with serious accusations of misconduct without being given details of the charges. He was refused the right to speak to witnesses, collect evidence, or even consult his own diaries. Others who find themselves in this Kafkaesque situation might want to read his account of why this process is unlawful.

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Mr Salmond was not on trial on Friday, though some MSPs tried to put him in the dock. It was the Scottish Government which had behaved unlawfully – as a matter of record. But why, MSPs wanted to know, did he not leave it there? Five hours in, the Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser asked the question everyone had been waiting for: Why would sensible civil servants and officials in his own party concoct such a mad and malicious plot to put him in jail?

Salmond claims that, when Ms Sturgeon’s officials realised they were going down to a “cataclysmic” defeat in the Court of Session, they tried to accelerate a criminal investigation in the hope that this would overtake it – or “sist” it in legal jargon. In other words, that the Salmond judicial review would never happen because Salmond would be in jail before it could be heard.

As for resignations: he said a number of officials should “consider their position” beginning with the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, who devised the botched and unlawful investigation and persevered with the doomed judicial review. But unless the Parliament demands to see the documentation he has identified, it seems unlikely that other heads will roll.

But Alex Salmond has now broken his silence on this scandal. He has placed his case on the record, in what can only be called exquisite detail.