NICOLA Sturgeon's reputation as a master of detail will never be quite the same. Both the Hamilton Inquiry, which says she didn't mislead parliament, and the Holyrood Harassment Committee, which said she did, are agreed on one thing: the First Minister has “regrettable lapses of memory", as James Hamilton put it.

Confusingly, the harassment committee said it was for Mr Hamilton to decide whether the First Minister's lapses of memory constituted a breach of the ministerial code. But Mr Hamilton said it was up to the MSPs to decide “whether they were in fact misled.” The truth is that the public have given up on this nonsense long since.

Did anyone really care whether the First Minister got her dates mixed up? No. The obvious conclusion is that it didn't matter a jot whether the First Minister had misled parliament about the meeting on March 29 because even if she had it was a victimless crime. It was just irrelevant.

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What did matter, and what opposition parties should have been concentrating on, were the very real victims of the Scottish Government's “catastrophic” mistakes. Two years ago the Court of Session ruled that it had behaved “unlawfully and unfairly and with apparent bias” in perhaps the most important investigation civil servants could have undertaken: into sexual harassment charges against a former First Minister of Scotland.

Yesterday's report made clear in paragraph after paragraph, page after page, the catalogue of errors that arose from a rush to judgment under the shadow of #MeToo. Officials were right to take the complaints seriously and Ms Sturgeon was correct that the matter should not have been brushed under the carpet. But what was inexcusable was cobbling together an unlawful and incompetent procedure that succeeded in failing both Alex Salmond and the women equally.

The Scottish Government's investigation into the initial complaints did not give him the means to defend himself. This is explored by the report everyone has forgotten about: last week's review by Laura Dunlop QC of the handling of harassment complaints. He was denied access to information, witnesses and even his own diary.

More astonishingly, given the context of #MeToo, was the way the women complainants were let down. They were badly advised and incompetently handled by an investing officer who had prior contact. Their allegations were leaked to the press and one of their names to a Salmond aide. They were referred to the police against their wishes and then “just left to swim”, as one of them put it.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon will not resign over misleading parliament, but she does protest too much

They told the committee that there had been a “climate” in the Scottish civil service which made it difficult to make complaints about senior figures. What's not in doubt is that the mishandling of this case will make that climate infinitely more oppressive. What woman, or man, would risk exposing themselves to any complaints process run by this lot?

It was evident from the Court of Session case that the Government had botched the whole process. However, yesterday's report went much further in apportioning blame. MSPs on the harassment committee were divided on the failings of the First Minister, but they were unanimous in their criticism of officials, especially the Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans.

“The Scottish Government was responsible,” their report says, “for a serious, substantial and entirely avoidable situation that resulted in a prolonged, expensive and unsuccessful defence of the [Salmond] Petition”. It goes on to criticise Ms Evans personally for knowing about the prior contact issue and for failing to provide important information for the judicial review. “This individual failing,” it concludes, "is as significant as the general corporate failing already described.”

One of Ms Sturgeon's closest former advisers, Noel Dolan, said nearly two years ago that the Permanent Secretary should have considered her position after the Court of Session ruling. Someone should have, to clear the air. Yet contracts were extended and remuneration enhanced. Ms Sturgeon, as First Minister, signed off on the botched harassment procedure, as the committee notes, but she’s not held responsible for the operational failings.

This affair has been portrayed, understandably, as a personal war between Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon. But to be fair, the former First Minister never called on Ms Sturgeon to resign. His breathtaking allegations of a plot, repeated in Westminster by the Tory MP David Davis last week, were directed at senior officials in the Scottish Government and the SNP.

However, neither of this week's reports give him much support for his claims of a “malicious and concerted” campaign to destroy his reputation and have him jailed. MSPs are dismissive of the text messages that Mr Salmond says are evidence of collusion between the SNP Chief Operating Officer, Sue Ruddick, the SNP Chief Executive, Peter Murrell and others.

Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond

The report appears to agree with Ms Sturgeon that these messages were, in context, largely innocent and “supportive” communications between complainants. That is their view. Mr Salmond will no doubt say that the committee never got to see the most incriminating messages. The committee was highly critical of the way it has been obstructed in its attempts to secure documentation. The Scottish Government's delays and evasions have dismayed many independence supporters.

Most of the criminal allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Salmond were delivered late in the day by senior SNP figures. For many in the SNP that is evidence enough that their former hero was the victim of political machinations. The criminal charges against him were dismissed by the jury in the trial which ended exactly one year ago. His reputation, though, is beyond recovery.

Mr Salmond will no doubt have his say later this week. But as far as Nicola Sturgeon is concerned, this case is closed.

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