Out of their traps they came to assure Scotland that John Swinney really is the man for the moment. In every available studio, the clichés flowed like syrup from political allies and commentariat alike.

“Safe pair of hands” … “man of integrity” … “widely admired”…. Sharp ears might have noticed that the bearers of these platitudes were the same ones who, last year, assured us that Humza Yousaf was just the man to take Scotland forward.

Politically, they were not so much SNP as ABK – Anyone But Kate. As for the faithful media regurgitators, they have lived in the Holyrood shadow so long that critical faculties have dulled where they ever existed. It’s cosier to join in Nationalist group-think.

Yet, even by these standards, accepting the official word portrait of Mr Swinney requires an exceptional level of political amnesia. If you look at his actual record in office, it is peppered with episodes which contradict the clichés. A generally more emollient manner than his superiors, and having been around for ever, are his main credentials.

As a survivor par excellence, Mr Swinney has been party to every folly the Scottish Government has engaged in over the past decade and beyond. As negotiator from the SNP’s side for the Bute House Agreement, he helped build the trap into which Humza Yousaf eventually plunged. It would be ironic for him to emerge as the messiah who will replace the casualty.

Throughout the whole transgender debacle, which ended in the Supreme Court at considerable expense to Scotland’s public purse, Mr Swinney was the loyal supporter of Ms Sturgeon’s preoccupations. Ditto, ditto, ditto through all the events which led to last week’s melt-down. And that’s what passes for a safe pair of hands?

It goes back a lot further than that on the integrity cliché. Lord Hardie certainly did not subscribe to that view in his report on the Edinburgh trams fiasco. As well as being severely critical of Mr Swinney’s role, he was scathing about his “lack of candour” in the evidence he provided, which is generally regarded as a euphemism. Same with the Ferguson scandal, same with the Salmond inquiry.

Mr Swinney had been around for so long that he seemed to take a proprietorial view of government. That tends to be the way with career apparatchiks devoted to protecting an institution. His tactic during the Salmond inquiry - again heavily criticised - was to delay, delay, delay in handing over evidence unhelpful to the Sturgeon cause. Honest John? New broom?

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Or let me recall the run-up to the 2014 referendum and the most significant breach of trust with the Scottish people for which Mr Swinney was responsible. At that time, a leaked document revealed he had warned Scottish Cabinet colleagues that the volatile price of oil made it uncertain if an independent Scotland would be able to maintain pensions and benefits. A jaw-dropping revelation.

It was also the opposite of what he, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish people. Instead, they concocted the fiction of the “average” price of oil running at $114 a barrel in order to cobble together their economic prospectus. It has barely reached that figure on a single day since. Swinney knew the truth. He told the SNP hierarchy and collectively they withheld the same information from the Scottish people.

I refer to that episode in full knowledge it will be labelled “past history” by many. Part of the political game, some may say. That ignores the consequences for the poor and the weak if the big lie had succeeded. It is the mark of zealotry, not integrity, to lead people towards a financial abyss in full knowledge of inconvenient evidence that is concealed.

The end justified the means, as it always does in the eyes of zealots – which goes to the heart of how Scotland has been run. We need a different starting point and are not going to get it from the SNP’s continuity leader – Salmond, Swinney, Salmond, Sturgeon and back to Swinney via Yousaf. Ye gods! Can Scotland not do better?

Then we come to the “democratic outrage” as Nicola Sturgeon rightly described it when Liz Truss succeeded Boris Johnson without going to the country. And then the “democratic outrage” doubled when Liz Truss begat Rishi Sunak. For Johnson, Truss and Sunak, are we now to read Sturgeon, Yousaf and Swinney/Forbes? Even more hypocritically, the SNP also gave us a Green coalition which absolutely nobody voted for.

The SNP like nothing so much as “whitabootery” so we have heard a comparison drawn with Mark Drakeford’s resignation in Wales, announced in the same year that his wife died in a context where there was no threat to stable government. It is a pretty sick analogy. In any case, the valid comparison is within Scotland – what Ms Sturgeon said with maximum venom and how the SNP now behave on their own behalf.

The Herald: John Swinney with Nicola SturgeonJohn Swinney with Nicola Sturgeon (Image: PA)

If Mr Swinney is installed as leader, it will only be because he is acceptable to the Scottish Greens. If they vote against any candidate and the other parties stand their ground, as seems likely, then the SNP will be back in the same position as they were this week when only Ash Regan and Alex Salmond could save Mr Yousaf’s job. Even they regarded that as too high a price to pay.

Having obtained the First Minister’s role through the approval of the people Mr Yousaf has just got rid of, Mr Swinney would remain beholden to them for the next two years on exactly those areas of policy which have led Scotland into so many divisive dead ends and ended up with the SNP’s need for another leader.

Mr Swinney, on his record, is not a safe pair of hands and he certainly does not represent a new beginning. There is absolutely no obligation on MSPs of any party to rubber-stamp his, or indeed Ms Forbes’, appointment as First Minister.

Instead, let’s all agree with Nicola Sturgeon and defend Scotland against another “democratic outrage”. The case for a Holyrood election is unanswerable.

Brian Wilson is a former Labour Party politician. He was MP for Cunninghame North from 1987 until 2005 and served as a Minister of State from 1997 to 2003.