IT’S now more than a month since the news broke about the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. From the very beginning, I was uncomfortable with the torrent of certitude pouring out from the Westminster government and from the press, including from some journalists whose professionalism I respect, that Russia was responsible.

I wasn’t the only person thinking, “Haud oan a minute, isn’t there a step missing here before we make up our minds who’s to blame?”. Like, well, an investigation?

My scepticism wasn’t helped by some of the statements from UK Government ministers. Boris Johnson, our hapless Foreign Secretary, said – and I quote: “There is something in the smug, sarcastic response that we’ve heard from the Russians that indicate their fundamental guilt.”

The mind boggles at the thought of a Crown prosecutor leading such evidence in a court of law. Now we discover that Boris may have misled the public about the information he received from Porton Down scientists about the source of the nerve agent.

With every week that goes by, the spectre of Tony Blair and his dodgy dossier on Iraq’s supposed stash of weapons of mass destruction looms ever larger.

I’m no fan of Vladimir Putin. Nor am I naive about his or the Russian state’s shenanigans. I’ve been nervous for years, scared even, about Putin’s strong-man posturing. And the Russian state’s role in Syria, backing Assad’s criminal chemical incineration of his own people, is beyond repugnant. There is no doubt the Russian state has “form”. And that’s what Boris Johnson and Theresa May relied upon to pronounce it guilty and impose punishment, all in the space of a couple of weeks.

A major domestic criminal investigation, even with reliable witnesses and mountains of hard evidence, generally takes many months or even years to complete.

Putin seems like a man who has absorbed the writings of Machiavelli in the way most of us learned nursery rhymes. But just because he’s a suspect, the prime suspect even, that would not be enough to convict him. When a housebreaking occurs, for example, the police will treat known burglars as potential suspects. But their previous record is, rightly, inadmissible in court. Juries are required to focus on the actual evidence. To proceed otherwise would be a recipe for countless miscarriages of justice.

In this case, unless I’m missing something, it strikes me that the possibility of a more personal criminal act has not been explored at all. The disintegration of the Soviet Union, the dispersal of its security services and the intricate web of corruption that connects the Russian state to a cabal of stinkingly wealthy oligarchs and the criminal gangster underworld throw up a multitude of questions about who might have had a motive – and the means – to get their hands on a Novichok nerve agent.

Whenever someone is assaulted, it makes statistical sense to look at the victim’s closest relationships, business and personal, to identify potential suspects. I simply don’t know whether the police have explored any of these possibilities or not when it comes to the Skripals. And why would they if the UK Government has told them the case is already closed?

Are we really all supposed to sit back, wide-eyed and trusting, after all we’ve been through in the past? Thirteen years after Tony Blair joined with George W Bush in the invasion of Iraq, the Chilcot report finally acknowledged that the UK Parliament and the British public were deceived by government ministers, and by the “flawed information” provided by the intelligence services.

At the very least, the attack on the Skripals has revealed an astonishing level of incompetence stretching all the way down from the top of the UK Government to the investigators on the ground.

These past few days, we’ve learned that Skripals’ house was sealed off following the atrocity, and Skripal’s two pet guinea pigs were found dead – having apparently died of thirst according to Defra.

A “distressed” cat had to be put down. But according to Russia’s UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, there were two cats in the house. And he wants to know why the animals’ bodies appear to have been incinerated, and whether they were tested for toxic substances. “Their condition is also an important piece of evidence,” he pointed out, quite reasonably.

This is beginning to look like a particularly dark episode of The Thick of It. And in the absence of any convincing explanation from the Government, is it any wonder that many people are suspicious that they’re being treated to a Malcolm Tucker-style PR ploy by a government sinking with its Brexit ship?

On an issue of this magnitude, I’m more likely to trust Nicola Sturgeon than Boris Johnson or Theresa May. So, when Nicola gave her backing to the UK Government on the Skripal affair, it made me take notice, and I’m sure others were the same.

Maybe she had access to top-secret information that has persuaded her that the attack was ordered by the Kremlin? If she has, she should tell us. But even the Scottish Secretary doesn’t get to sit round the table for high-level Brexit discussions, so I have my doubts that the leader of the movement to take Scotland out of the UK state is being let in on the UK’s state top secrets.

I’m no conspiracy theorist. I’m not someone who will suggest that the moon landing was a hoax or that the destruction of the Twin Towers was organised by the CIA. I’m not going to claim the attack on the Skripals was the work of MI6 or Mossad. I don’t know who was behind it, but I’m not going take Boris Johnson’s word for it.

It’s been suggested that some of those expressing scepticism online are Russian trolls from the same dark corner of cyberspace as those who interfered in the US presidential election.

Maybe there is some truth in that. But I am perhaps unusual in that I’ve made a point of only becoming Facebook friends with people whom I’ve actually met in person (I’m a reluctant Facebook user but that’s another story). For some of my friends, their silence and reluctance to share the SNP’s official position on the Skripal affair is telling enough.

But what is much more common is outright disbelief, scepticism and sharing of posts by former diplomats such as Craig Murray – and the jokes, “Blame the Russians!”. These are people I like, respect and know are very savvy. They are not trolls, just sceptics who have been through a few cycles of UK government spin.

If this attack was indeed orchestrated by the Russian government, I’m sure we’ll eventually see the evidence. If it wasn’t, I suspect we’ll find out nothing more than we already know. Personally, I’m not holding my breath.