Excuse me for referring to what I wrote last week. Get ready, I suggested, for another round of “the meaningless numbers game” in which some irrelevant statistic becomes the Scottish Government’s shield against Covid scrutiny.

And verily it came to pass. Eight times in replies at First Minister’s Questions alone, Humza Yousaf quoted the same magic, meaningless number: 14,000, which is apparently how many WhatsApp messages are being handed over to the UK Covid inquiry.

I woke up to it again yesterday. Fourteen thousand! They all go to the same media trainer so the emphasis is always on “thousand”. Wow! What a big number - and utterly meaningless, as the most modest political or media intellect should by now be able to divine.

The idea that a retained group message saying “Hi Jason. Have a nice day” carries equivalence to a deleted one between Ms Sturgeon and a confidante, discussing tactics and directing responses, is self-evident nonsense. Yet that is the implied defence used by her successor to kick pesky “deleted WhatsApps” inquiries into distant touch.

They should not get away with it this time. We already know from the UK inquiry just how significant WhatsApp messages have become to an understanding of the chaos and calculations. Small wonder they went to the Supreme Court, trying to prevent disclosure. But they lost - and at that point, at least these messages existed.

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Do their counterparts still exist in Scotland? And if not, why not? These are the key questions. The sooner Ms Sturgeon and her associates are hauled before one or other Covid inquiry to answer them, under oath, the better. For the truth is certainly not going to be volunteered.

Let me give one specific allegation which could be resolved quickly if the will exists. At this point, I defer to the devastating blog by Robin McAlpine, former director of Common Weal who has become an astute critic of the SNP’s mode of government. It is titled: “WhatsApp corruption was in plain sight from the beginning”.

One of many claims made by Mr McAlpine refers to the disastrous practice of decanting untested (or even Covid-positive) elderly people into care homes. He writes: “When they finally revised the guidance … they not only destroyed all evidence of the previous guidelines so they couldn’t be compared, they actually created an entirely new webpage for them so people couldn’t use internet archiving to find them”.

If true - and I have no reason to doubt it - then that alone was shocking, calculated behaviour, but on whose instigation? It seems unlikely it was ever the subject of a formal meeting or minute; almost as improbable that the “14,000 WhatsApps” will be allowed to tell us. So are we ever to know who directed the policy of “delete, destroy, delete”?

Mr McAlpine draws a much wider indictment of how cover-up and secrecy have been the Scottish Government’s standard modus operandi for the past decade; promising “full disclosure even as the shredders were humming”. All this was facilitated by a politicised civil service which never dared to say: “You can’t do that”. I agree entirely and more importantly, the electorate finally seems to have caught on to the chasm that existed between the façade presented by Ms Sturgeon and the reality that lay behind it. Since Mr Yousaf was part of her team throughout, he can hardly escape responsibility. And his use of the “meaningless numbers” device confirms he is no more scrupulous than his predecessor.

Let’s turn to another text-book example of how government operates when its guiding principles are to forestall scrutiny and evade responsibility. I refer to latest developments in the saga of how the contract to build two ferries was awarded to a shipyard which was incapable of building them, at an excess cost so far of £300 million.

This scandal is a on a scale that cries out for a short, sharp judge-led inquiry, to establish responsibility and learn lessons. The Scottish Government knows where all the bodies are buried and will countenance no such inquiry. When eventually faced with revelations via the BBC Scotland Disclosures programme about gross irregularities in the tendering process, it had no choice but to volunteer an investigation.

Then came the crafty side-step. Part one was to say (falsely) that the issues raised were matters for CMAL, the procurement quango, rather than its boss, the Scottish Government, so it was up to it to commission the inquiry. Part two was for CMAL to set terms for that inquiry which Barry Smith KC would conduct. The outcome was a travesty.

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Mr Smith’s remit was restricted to “fraud” which the programme had not alleged and excluded improprieties which it had alleged. You, almost literally, couldn’t make it up. Mr Smith duly “cleared” CMAL of the fraud that nobody had alleged and everyone congratulated themselves on everything being hunky-dory.

But not quite. The former procurement manager at CMAL has protested that his evidence, that the Ferguson yard should not have qualified for the tendering process, was ignored and procurement “broke every rule in the book”. Mr Smith replied rather lamely that his remit had been “to investigate allegations of fraud” (which nobody had made).

So who decided that it was CMAL who should instruct an inquiry rather than the Scottish Government? And who decided to restrict Mr Smith’s remit to “fraud”? Was it the board of CMAL? Was it Transport Scotland? And if the latter, was it under instructions from ministers? In short how was the farce of inquiring into something that was not alleged constructed?

Holyrood committees have had little success in pinning down the conduct of government, even when the will existed. Their weakness encouraged the arrogance of untouchability. But it should not now be beyond them to get to the bottom of a simple question: “Who decided on the tactics to avoid accountability for how the Ferguson contract was awarded?”

Incidentally, the Scottish Government say they handed over “3,000 documents” for that one. Wow! That’s impressive … isn’t it?

Brian Wilson is a former Labour Party MP and Energy Minister