THE Salmond versus Sturgeon uncivil war currently raging in Committee Room One of the Scottish Parliament will move closer to its denouement when the First Minister takes the stand. This minor human tragedy (or psychodrama to give it its full decaf latte name) bears all the characteristics of a Tartan Noir. Even now, I feel sure that several of our better-known television scriptwriters are being asked to pitch for a drama slot on the BBC Scotland channel.

So, who would play Nicola Sturgeon? I’d be going for Laura Fraser, a brilliant actor who often plays edgy, complicated women with a good heart but whose wrath could melt you at 100 paces. There’s only one candidate, of course, for the lead Salmond role and that’s Brian Cox. Picture it in your mind’s eye and tell me I’m wrong.

Prominent Scottish Unionists residing in England have lately begun to observe the proceedings with something approaching beatific ecstasy. It seems that all their birthdays have come at once. Not only do they think it will bring down the First Minister, it’ll also deal a fatal blow to the entire independence movement.

The English-based Scots – spiritual leader Andrew Neil – have portrayed the drama as something requiring to be heard at The Hague involving crimes against humanity. They’re particularly obsessed with issues around the separation of powers owing to the admittedly somewhat problematic role of the Lord Advocate as both public prosecutor and political appointee sitting in the Scottish Cabinet.

Yet, try though I might, I simply cannot envision the following conversation unfolding in Scottish households in the run-up to the Scottish election.

“I’d normally vote SNP but I’m absolutely appalled at how Scotland’s chief prosecutor gets to sit in the Cabinet. The separation of powers is a fundamental building block of the democratic process and Mr James Wolffe QC is running a coach and horses through it.”

Nor, I feel, will the words “I’ve never fancied that Leslie Evans; shifty and high fallutin’” feature much in dinner-table discussions. Unless, that is, you’re from Morningside, in which case you’ll be too otherwise concerned about the erratic delivery service of your Nespresso coffee refills to be bothered one way or the other.

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“It would never happen at Westminster,” the expat Scots Tories say. “Ours is a mature and robust democratic chamber which would tell any judge who sought to interfere in the business of parliament to go and take a Friar Tuck to himself.”

Well, perhaps. But when your Prime Minister, only 15 months ago, channelled his inner Oliver Cromwell and endeavoured to dispense with parliament altogether, who needs a lowly judge to put a legal straitjacket on the Mother of all Parliaments? The same Oliver Cromwell is commemorated in stone in Parliament Square, and presumably not for his acts of genocide against the Catholic population of Ireland.

Perhaps the Lord Protector’s presence in and around Westminster serves as a useful example when Parliament has used our armed forces to follow his bloodlust and commit similar purges against ethnic peoples of Africa, India and the Middle East. But hey, at least they stick to their separation of powers and you can’t knock that.

Tony Blair and his own Lord Protector Alastair Campbell, presumably also knew the demarcation lines between the legislative and the judiciary. And so, instead of testing them, they just went up and around them armed with a dodgy dossier knocked off from Wikipedia and a judicial inquiry whose findings about the death of the weapons expert David Kelly would have raised eyebrows in the Communist-era German Democratic Republic.

THAT inquiry was led by Lord Hutton, who had once been Lord Chief Justice of, ahem … Northern Ireland, to whom British attitudes in the 20th century hadn’t changed much since Cromwell was burning the locals in the 17th century.

I’m sure we’ll get to see first-hand how a mature democracy conducts itself when Boris Johnson and his entire Cabinet are summoned to answer stiff questions about how a billion quid of the nation’s finances found its way into the pockets of “recently registered” PPE firms and Charlie’s Chocolate Factory (Northern Ireland branch). By then, of course, we’ll see unicorns grazing in the grounds around Westminster.

I freely admit here that I’ve been rather disobliging about aspects of the inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the investigation into harassment complaints against Salmond – and some of those taking part. Certainly, the quality of leadership of our civil service is alarmingly low grade, and a recommendation for the removal of its head, Leslie Evans, must be included in the final report.

The Lord Advocate should also be gone by then – not so much for his stumbling and erratic interventions in the inquiry itself – but for partly presiding over the series of malicious prosecutions in the Rangers tax imbroglio.

Arguably the worst performer of all has been Peter Murrell, the SNP’s chief executive: again, not for his memory lapses during the inquiry but for thinking that the population of Scotland and its political representatives are just plain stupid.

That these people are all earning six-figure salaries with golden retirement packages is characteristic of an unutterably dire recruitment policy that proceeds in the higher echelons of Scottish civic life. In this, the right connections and being fluent in the dismal argot of bureaucratic Scotland are considered to be more valuable than actual talent.

During my stint as an executive on Her Majesty’s Daily Mail some years back we argued long about Scottish devolution and mocked some of the initial Holyrood intake who looked and sounded as though they’d expended most of their little grey cells in the simple act of locating their new place of work.

As I reminded my scornful colleagues though, Holyrood has only 129 members. Westminster has 650 of the blighters and if you can name more than 20 of them at any given time you must be the editor of Hansard.

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Some of England’s most venal, corrupt and lazy roasters routinely gain admittance to a jurisdiction that’s been on the go for more than 800 years. The Scottish Parliament is barely 20 years old and will take a few more generations to find its top gear.

My own opinion is that Nicola Sturgeon will survive this episode, so long as she avoids her husband’s arrogant assumption that we’re all buttoned up the back. I also believe that if the necessary tweaks to our democratic process and its assorted pillars are made then this inquiry may yet be seen as a watershed moment in improving the way we do business.