This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Nicola Sturgeon will be back under the spotlight on Wednesday – but the former first minister has rarely been in the shadows since her shock decision to quit Bute House.

The Glasgow Southside MSP’s time in charge during the pandemic will come under forensic questioning as she gives evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry.

This should be Ms Sturgeon in her element – she thrived under the scrutiny of the inquiry into the mishandling of complaints against Alex Salmond in March 2021 for more than eight hours.

But Wednesday could be different – she is being investigated by top lawyers, not backbench MPS.

The former first minister’s legal background has been one of her biggest assets – the ability to bite her tongue and keep quiet at the right moments. You could argue that talent has escaped Ms Sturgeon, on occasion, since quitting Bute House.

This is not a criticism of Ms Sturgeon, this is not her being deceitful – but just using her brain and not saying anything that will come back to haunt her.

Ms Sturgeon was roundly praised by many, even those who politically were not a fan, for her role in communicating the crucial public health messages during the pandemic.

The then-first minister took a high line, pointed to her government’s perceived top standards and highlighted the shambolic scenes at Westminster if you want an alternative.

That self-inflicted moral high horse has made the apparent fall look like an avalanche for Ms Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon will have answers to most of what will be thrown her way on Wednesday – she is the best in the business.

But her adamant claims that WhatsApp was not used for government business have been exposed as false after the messages of her closest adviser Liz Lloyd, showed the duo discussing numbers who can mix and proposed restrictions for weddings.

The former first minister might attempt to claim she was merely using Ms Lloyd as a sounding board and that no government decisions were made on WhatsApp. But the public is unlikely to be convinced by this when messages show the opposite to be true.

We know Ms Sturgeon has deleted her messages despite assurances she wouldn’t and that will need a proper explanation.

The Herald: Evidence from the inquiry suggests that adviser Liz Lloyd and Nicola Sturgeon ran the operation as a double actEvidence from the inquiry suggests that adviser Liz Lloyd and Nicola Sturgeon ran the operation as a double act (Image: Newsquest)
Other than the WhatsApp row, the former first minister could face intense pressure over a range of responsibilities her government had during the pandemic – and these things matter.

We should get a flavour of some of these tomorrow when her loyal deputy John Swinney, who has largely stayed out of the post-Covid light so far, will be grilled. School closures and the exams farce are key elements the then-deputy first minister could receive a kicking over.

But there are key parts of the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic that the former first minister will be pressed on – why patients were transferred from hospitals to care homes is an obvious starting point.

The then-first minister will likely be quizzed over restrictions and how decisions were justified and why, on occasion, the Scottish Government took a different path to Westminster.

A lot of hot air has been released over evidence showing that Ms Sturgeon asked public health expert Professor Devi Sridhar to send her a document “privately” to her personal SNP email address instead of her government contact details, telling her “don’t worry about protocol”.

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That tied with the emergence that Ms Sturgeon used her personal phone, albeit secured by government technology and not a Bute House-issued device, has allowed opponents to paint a narrative of secrecy and deception.

There appears, so far, to be little if any evidence for that, but Ms Sturgeon will likely face questions over the culture she oversaw, and the scrutiny involved.

Evidence to the inquiry has suggested that Ms Sturgeon and Ms Lloyd ran the show as double-act – with then-finance secretary and SNP has-been Kate Forbes out of the loop on some of the big matters.

In messages between big-gobbed national clinical director Jason Leitch and health-secretary-turned-first-minister Humza Yousaf, the inquiry heard that Ms Sturgeon wanted to “keep it small”, suggesting the fewer people involved in decision-making the better – with Mr Yousaf stating “she actually wants none of us”.

But what will Ms Sturgeon have to say about her leadership style with it now under the microscope?

A big narrative running in the Scottish evidence sessions has been the relationship between Scottish and UK ministers during the most frantic period of devolution.

The assessment so far, in absolutely no surprise to anyone, is that it was pretty frosty.

A message that managed to avoid being deleted showed Ms Sturgeon describing Boris Johnson as a “f****** clown”.

A less palatable message that also avoided the cull was Ms Sturgeon seeming to agree with Ms Lloyd's rather distasteful call for a “proper rammy” with the UK Government for political means so she can “think about something other than sick people”, which will have boiled the blood of the vocal Scottish Covid Bereaved group.

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And that is who Ms Sturgeon must appeal to. She is not in government, and will not (if she ever did) particularly care what opposition MSPs have to say about her – but those grieving families who have already reacted with anger to her deleting evidence, are demanding answers.

A marathon session in front of top lawyers on Wednesday will see Ms Sturgeon judged by the people who really matter – those who lost loved ones during the pandemic and whether action or inaction from her government played any part in that tragedy.