HUMZA Yousaf needs a spindoctor. Oh boy, does he need a spindoctor.

As the Herald revealed, the First Minister has embarked on a search for a senior special adviser who will act as his official spokesman or woman in the Scottish Government.

The last head of communications, Stuart Nicolson, is leaving alongside Nicola Sturgeon’s former political adviser Liz Lloyd and some other backroom ‘SpAds’.

Whoever accepts the gig will be entering a whirlwind.

After a brutal leadership contest, police vans decorating party HQ, and Alex Salmond feasting on schadenfreude, the rivets are popping out of the party of government.

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Small wonder Mr Yousaf, having beaten Kate Forbes as the continuity candidate, now wants to put distance between himself and the tottering mess he inherits.

So he has decided to look beyond the Government and party machine for his new head of communications in the hope a fresh face and perspective can help.

It will not be an easy hunt, despite the draw of a salary of up to £90,000 and a fat pension.

Even if the Government was purring along nicely, the hours involved are punishing. 

The winner also has to host the weekly joust with the media after FMQs. 

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Sometimes, this is peaceful and predictable. At others, it can go off at a feral tangent.

Then there is being copied into hundreds of emails each day and trying to keep abreast of the myriad of possible stories, good and bad, that are forever zipping around the system. 

But over and above coping with that, what makes a good spindoctor?

Is it mastery of the ‘dark arts’ and the sulphurous whiff of an Alastair Campbell? Or a talent for bribery - handing out stories to feed the press pack and bring the hounds to heel?

These are necessary but minor ingredients.

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Yes, there are times when spindoctors plant stories with the media for maximum advantage. As well as times when they go to war with outlets over unfavourable coverage.

Briefing against misbehaving colleagues isn’t unknown, either. But these are basics. 

More important by far are relationships. The relationship between the spindoctor and their boss, and between the spindoctor and the media. 

It boils down to the three Ts. 

The first is trust. Journalists expect their subjects to put a positive gloss on their own deeds and to downplay problems. But we don’t expect outright lies. 

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Pictured: Alex Salmond’s former spokesman, Kevin Pringle, had the gift, but few others do.

When SNP HQ misled people about its falling membership, it was a rare example of downright dishonesty, and that’s why heads rolled. 

So a good spindoctor has to be trusted. The tricky bit is that what helps them build trust with the boss - keeping bad stories out of the media - is also what infuriates reporters. 

But if the rules of engagement are clear and there are no lies, trust can survive.

Mr Yousaf takes the helm with trust in the SNP and its works at a low ebb, so rebuilding it will be a key task for his spindoctor. Any BS merchants will fall flat.

The second T is time. Journalists never have enough of it and want someone to cut through the bureaucratic gloop and get them an answer to a query and a quote for a story pronto. A good head of comms can do that for them, building trust as they go.  

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Mr Yousaf’s future appointee, take note.

Allied to both the above, but by no means a given, is the elusive third T, telepathy. 

The best spindoctors know their boss so well they can accurately anticipate what they’ll say and do. The best can improvise a quote in their master’s name, and a few can even deliver it with the same rhythm and cadences, as if they’re transmitting a message through the ether.

Alex Salmond’s former spokesman, Kevin Pringle, had the gift, but few others do. 

I’m sure the right person is out there for the First Minister. Whether they’d take the job from hell is another matter.