HOLYROOD has finally broken up, after a period that has often seemed interminable, even to those of us merely observing. No doubt the First Minister and the government reached that point with relief to have emerged intact, if not unscathed, from both Salmond inquiries. The news that Mr Salmond has launched his own political party means this will be a Scottish election like no other in May.

Their opponents may be frustrated by the failure to win a victory even before the election campaign has begun but the overwhelming reaction, for both the partisan and the disinterested, ought instead to be profound disappointment that, throughout this thoroughly unedifying process, no one – ministers, officials, advisers; the hierarchies of the political parties, the parliamentary committee; the institutions and mechanisms of government – has covered themselves with glory. Indeed, very few emerge without being the proper objects of serious criticism.

The Scottish Government, in both the behaviour of ministers and the culture of how business is conducted behind the scenes, may not have been convicted of being “a banana republic” or riddled with corruption, to cite the more sensational charges from some unionist opponents.

But its excessive secrecy and reluctance to produce evidence, even on the instructions of parliament, support the view that it has behaved in a fashion that is, at the least, high-handed, hostile to transparency and inimical to democratic accountability.

The First Minister can certainly claim she has not been found guilty of an offence that requires her resignation: unless further evidence appears, her opponents must abandon that as a lost cause. The Tories, in particular, did themselves no favours by calling for resignations before the report was even published, and pushing on with a vote of no confidence that was an obvious dead duck. That is obviously a political tactic, rather than based on reasonable grounds.

But James Hamilton’s conclusions, though a victory for Ms Sturgeon, were qualified: first, by frustration that not all the evidence could be presented, and second, because they cleared the First Minister of a breach of the ministerial code only on the basis that her account was not “impossible”, and said it was for parliament to decide whether it had been misled on other issues. And the parliamentary committee decided it had.

Ms Sturgeon’s sudden volte-face to accuse it of partisan bias makes it look as if she feels entitled to pick and choose verdicts. Especially when she constantly professed every confidence in the inquiry, and promised to comply with its findings, until the moment that it was clear it was about to rule against her.

Yet it is hardly impossible that partisan politics did play a role in that judgment, and the leak from the committee – itself a blatant and indefensible breach of Holyrood codes – probably did as much to undermine faith in its integrity as Ms Sturgeon’s ad hominem accusations.

The essential, and self-evident, failure of this process is that it has not resolved – and has in many ways obscured – what went wrong two years ago. That includes dreadful mishandling of legal proceedings with enormous costs to the public purse. But even more important is why the complainants did not receive the due process to which they were entitled. Everyone – including those who believe Mr Salmond has been badly wronged – regards them as having been let down by the procedures, or how they were applied.

The First Minister has been cleared to make the case for staying in her job in six weeks time. That doesn’t make those failings vanish, or imply that the government did not mishandle matters and then, in the most charitable view, botch subsequent investigations.

The thing that almost everyone finds almost literally incredible and entirely unacceptable is that not one person involved in this debacle has resigned. Whatever the other findings, that is damning. Claims, many of them warranted, of comparable deficiencies in Westminster politics are beside the point: the coming election is for Holyrood, and it deserves parliamentarians of all parties who are readier to engage, explain, take responsibility for their actions and be held to account. Scotland deserves more.