Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee in 2002, the senior mandarin Sir Richard Mottram compared the Civil Service to “a rather stupid dog”.

“It wants to be loyal to its master,” he continued, “and above all it wants to be loved for doing that.” This seems a useful way of understanding the civil service in Scotland’s role in a spate of recent stories.

Most recently, we learned the Scottish Government had failed to take an official record of a meeting between Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and the then-head of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Andrew Flanagan in November. This led to the SPA reversing its decision to allow Chief Constable Phil Gormley to return to duty.

Whatever your view of that decision – and this column isn’t concerned with that – you might think such an important encounter would be written down in some way. This, I believed, was standard practice; indeed, I’ve spent many happy hours in archives sifting through written accounts of similarly important meetings.

Only if such a meeting was routine, a quick chat between minister and public body chair, would the lack of a written account be explainable, but that clearly wasn’t the case in this respect. This, therefore, leaves another explanation, that either the SPA or Mr Matheson did not want the meeting in question to be recorded, which begs the obvious question of why?

What does the Justice Secretary’s private office do if not take minutes of important meetings? And if they were instructed not to, why did they oblige? Was it a case of Mottram’s “rather stupid dog” trying to please its ministerial master? If, as looks likely, it was an attempt to avoid further SPA-related controversy, then it obviously failed miserably.

If the above were an isolated incident, meanwhile, it might be excusable, but in several other areas there have been similar stories. Recently, we read of pressure from the Scottish Government on Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to change parts of a review into the merger of the British Transport Police and Police Scotland.

Emails revealed a sustained attempt by Don McGillivray, the Scottish Government’s deputy director of the police division, to challenge aspects of the HMICS report. His tone is irritable and often passive aggressive, well beyond what might be expected from such communications.

Such incidents seem to arise from policies that have caused the Scottish Government continuing headaches, for example its “named person” legislation. In this case, witnesses due to give evidence to a Holyrood committee were systematically targeted by a Scottish Government lobbying campaign, with civil servants setting up meetings to “provide clarification” about the controversial policy.

Challenged about this at First Minister’s Questions a few weeks ago, Nicola Sturgeon suggested these meetings with “stakeholders” were entirely routine, while opposition MSPs claimed it was further evidence of a Scottish Government meddling in the work of independent bodies. The implication was one of politicisation.

Now this is an age-old charge, with practically every (UK) government since that of Harold Wilson having faced accusations of politicising the civil service. The introduction of “special advisers” from the 1970s on further blurred the line between apolitical officials and overtly-political party appointees. In the 1980s this crystalised around Bernard Ingham, and in the 1990s and 2000s Alastair Campbell.

Some of the Scottish Government’s behaviour could be defended on the basis that “everyone does it”, ie attempts last year to tone down embarrassing bits of reports from Audit Scotland (on health and education) or its own independent poverty adviser. But the sheer regularity of such stories – and they inevitably become stories – is less easy to explain away. I’ve been covering Scottish politics since 1999 and can’t remember anything comparable.

Furthermore, I reckon the dynamic began to shift shortly before the independence referendum of 2014. That was such a huge political event that it inevitably put even more pressure on the traditional boundaries between elected politicians and civil servants. The 2013 “Scotland’s Future” publication wasn’t a White Paper but a political manifesto, and one written – by and large – by supposedly neutral officials.

That experience, therefore, seemed to represent a shift between the small “n” nationalism that had long typified the civil service in Scotland to a big “N” variety that not only explains all this eagerness to please, but which might cause significant problems for future, non-SNP Scottish governments.

The former permanent secretary Sir Peter Housden faced repeated claims he had compromised his impartiality by becoming too close to the SNP during the referendum; a House of Commons committee even accused him of becoming a “cheerleader” for independence. To be fair, he was in a difficult position, having to juggle ministerial instructions in Edinburgh entirely at odds with his professional line of command in Whitehall.

Nevertheless, Housden too represented this apparent cultural shift. And while opposition parties at Holyrood have issued obligatory press releases raising concerns about all of the above, they could do rather more. Why doesn’t Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee initiate an inquiry and take evidence from Leslie Evans, the current Permanent Secretary?

Remarkably, the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland has just launched a new “Get it Minuted” campaign, to insist that meetings between the Scottish Government and external bodies ought to be routinely recorded. That’s right folks, the civil service in Scotland is now subject to a campaign to do its job properly.

A cynic might conclude that all the SNP’s worst habits – an end-justifies-the-means mindset, lack of honesty with information and an overly-tribal approach – have seeped into St Andrew’s House, where senior civil servants now appear to spend more time creating an obedient court around certain ministers rather than maintaining necessary distance. Sir Richard Mottram’s dog, it seems, just wants to be loved.