HOW did Nicola do? No-one needs the surname. No-one needs the context.

Any vaguely interested Scottish citizen simply wants to know how the shoot-out at the Holyrood Corral finally ended.

Well, she survived. And that’s not a particularly glowing review – but it’s probably good enough.

Despite the Daily Mail citing 30 ways in which the First Minister breached the Ministerial Code and Douglas Ross’s hugely premature call for her resignation, Nicola Sturgeon had an answer for almost everything. That doesn’t mean her version of events was always totally watertight or even (at times) very plausible. And the late arrival to the committee of the texts and WhatsApp message exchanges between party figures, including her own husband and SNP CEO Peter Murrell, meant some of the most uncomfortable evidence couldn’t be properly raised. Still the FM was at no point dumfoonert.

On those pessimistic comments in the newly released legal advice, she replied that lawyers’ comments are often downbeat and pessimistic. If government always abided by their worst fears, no government anywhere would ever defend a legal action.

On referring Salmond to the police against the preference of the complainants, she argued that sometimes government must proceed with criminal cases in the public interest and that ACAS backs such an approach.

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On not immediately reporting the Alex Salmond meetings, she maintained that this might have influenced civil servants subsequently involved in handling investigations who shouldn’t be second guessing the FM’s outlook.

On meeting him at all, because she was worried about his mental health, rumours he might quit the party and because she didn’t want to be cornered later at SNP conference.

On the allegation that a government official gave the name of a complainant to Geoff Aberdein? The FM suggested Alex Salmond already knew the names of both original complainants after previously apologising to one and searching on the Scottish Government’s Flickr account regarding the other.

On the corroboration of this serious data leak by Duncan Hamilton and Kevin Pringle, the FM said their evidence was essentially hearsay since they hadn’t been present and suggested the inquiry should get the relevant government official and Geoff Aberdein to come and testify directly in private.

Then, on Alex Salmond’s belief that she had offered to intervene in the process came a more human response. “I was sitting in my house. The man I’d worked with and admired for decades was sitting before me. Do I need to report this to someone – all of this was going through my head. Things like ‘I’d love to help if I can’ could have been said. It was a human situation between two people who knew each other well. I never intended to intervene on his behalf. Maybe I softened the message too much.”

On why no resignations took place after the “catastrophic mistake” in the Government’s investigation was finally revealed. “The whole thing was so shocking, I may have been too tolerant of people who made mistakes.” And the First Minister said she was conscious of the official review processes that were about to kick in. And that was the pattern.

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Silent snorts from some committee members after evasive-sounding answers, but no new bloodlines for the inquiry’s tracker dogs to follow.

In fact, the incomprehensible, rambling questions of the deputy convenor Margaret Mitchell had the online audience screaming into their laptops and only served to weaken any points her Tory colleague Murdo Fraser might just have scored.

At almost every turn Nicola Sturgeon was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t.

Yes, the First Minister began the session with all guns blazing. “I refused to follow the age-old pattern of letting a powerful man use his status and connections to get what he wants.” To be fair, Alex Salmond’s opening statement was also more antagonistic than his subsequent evidence. But after that, if not totally convincing, she was generally non-confrontational and credible.

So, what next? Of course, there are entrenched “sides” who had decided some time ago whether they were “standing with Nicola” or Alex Salmond. For many it’s also significant that this thorough-going examination of a First Minister in Scotland stands in contrast to Westminster, where casual law-breaking culminated last year with the finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel broke the Ministerial Code – yet she is still in post.

The deeper significance of minute details probably escaped all but the most disciplined legal minds, and in any case, research shows judgements are generally based on the way people conduct and present themselves, not on individual facts and figures.

So the public may be ready to call it quits, while MSPs will want some time to process the mountain of detail, claim and counter-claim made over the last week, before deciding whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the Ministerial Code. My guess is that committee members will not be rushed into a decision or another voting pact with the toxic Tories. They will want to process what they’ve heard, see due process completed and both inquiries reports. And that’s what Nicola Sturgeon had proposed.

Finally, a key point arose towards the end when the First Minister said Alex Salmond had produced “zero evidence of a deliberate and malign campaign” against him.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser replied: “I’m not interested in plots.” That’s laudable, if true. But the public is.

A series of diary mistakes won’t make most folk want Nicola Sturgeon to go. It would take a proven, comprehensible nasty narrative to swing the public against a popular FM. As things currently stand, all that’s in the public domain is a baffling bundle of disconnected “he said”, “she said” assertions.

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The public will also fit the case for action against the FM into the wider reality of their stressful, worried lives. Admiration for Covid tenacity isn’t an acceptable reason for mitigation amongst lawyers or political critics, but for many voters, who might well believe all politicians duck and weave, any debit items in the First Minister’s performance will be set against the considerable credit she has built up over the last year.

The FM didn’t play for the sympathy vote during her evidence. There was just one mention of her “other work” with the Covid crisis.

And at the end of eight hours in the hot seat, she was able to look the online electorate in the eye and assert that despite all the criticism thrown its way, Scottish democracy does actually work. The Committee used Scotland Act powers to demand the legal advice after the SNP’s political rivals worked together to create the threat of a no confidence vote. As John Curtice observed earlier, the Scottish Parliament managed to check the Scottish Government this week. Not quite the stuff of Banana Republics.

For a lot of the public, that’s enough.

The final result will probably be what was long forecast. The official finger of blame will likely be pointed at the woman who should have resigned some time ago, the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government Leslie Evans.

And if the SNP has any sense it will put its own house in order before the May campaign.

It’s been a long, horrible, exhausting process.

And this might be premature and o’er hopeful.

But it might almost be over.