SOME of those salivating over the prospect of civil war inside the SNP require to be acquainted with reality and recent UK political history. The SNP have been in government in Scotland for almost 12 years and few would bet against them still being in office following the next Holyrood election in 2021.

Nothing that Labour or the Tories have said or done in Scotland recently suggests that either of these parties will seriously challenge the SNP any time soon. This means that reports of “civil war” inside the party will become routine. Many of these will have words like “catastrophic” and “disastrous” and “calamitous” attached, meaning that they have the potential to bring down the government. They will be written more in desperate hope than in genuine expectation.

Admittedly, the current reports of civil unrest are more vivid than normal because the events they describe suggest that a state of open warfare exists between the two most important figures in recent Scottish political history: Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor as First Minister and SNP party leader Alex Salmond. That Sturgeon and Salmond’s relationship seemed to extend beyond the political realm adds a degree of pathos to reports of its current parlous state.

The descriptions of how dire is their current relationship rest on the belief that previously they were like besties, whose families enjoyed caravan holidays together and that they liked nothing better than kicking off the shoes and watching old films following a few hours of towsy but good-natured policy debate. Aye, right.

Certainly, the SNP Government – and its leader in particular – currently require to negotiate some troubled waters. Alex Salmond’s legal victory last week against the government in the person of Leslie Evans, its top civil servant, leaves Sturgeon with a decision to make.

Evans is directly answerable to the First Minister and her role in designing and proceeding with a flawed process of investigation into allegations of misconduct by Salmond means she really ought to be considering her position prior to resigning. The First Minister, just a matter of days after the government admitted defeat, is already coming under pressure to dismiss the Permanent Secretary. If she had moved immediately to do so I have no doubt whatsoever that those now urging her to do so would have then slaughtered her for attempting to bury bad news in the slipstream of last night’s Brexit vote at Westminster.

Salmond, whose current legal status is innocent, is entitled to seek the resignation of a senior civil servant who stands accused of designing an incompetent disciplinary and investigative process after the fact and with the express intention of creating a bear-trap for him. He is also entitled to believe that if any charges were to arise from the police investigation into the misconduct allegations that what he might face in court would be something less than a fair trial.

This is because much of the publicity arising from these allegations has seen innuendo and baseless rumours elevated to something more solid throughout social media and in the columns of experienced writers who should know to tread more carefully in these matters. He is also entitled to believe that the leak of the investigation to the Daily Record was done with the express intention of destroying him. In the event, and at the very least, it will have caused deep distress to the two complainants, at least one of whom had to be cajoled into making an issue of a matter that all parties believed to have been resolved some five years previously.

The nature of the meetings and conversations that took place around this time between Sturgeon and Salmond have now led the First Minister to report herself to the standards panel over allegations she broke the ministerial code.

Let’s talk frankly here. The ministerial code exists primarily to thwart any improper or inappropriate conversations between Scottish Government ministers and outside agencies. In this case there is no evidence that any of these encounters between Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor caused her to seek to influence a process. If we are talking about the grey line that exists between “party” business and “government” business then I can tell you right now that not a single minister of any Holyrood administration could say that they observed this in the spirit and the letter of the regulations.

If they had subsequently reported themselves you would need an army of administrators to trawl through dozens of cases every year.

So what are we left with? Someone on Salmond’s side wants the First Minister to force the resignation of the Permanent Secretary.

And some close to Sturgeon resents what they regard as an attempt to undermine their boss.

I suspect that the relationship between the two will never be the same again, though I suspect too that it had begun to change long before now. These things happen.

Nothing lasts forever in politics; just ask David Cameron and Michael Gove. To assert that this is a harbinger of civil war in the ranks of the SNP is laughable.

Let’s not forget either that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown ran the UK together for 10 years despite seemingly loathing the very fact of each other’s existence for most of that time. Blair’s people floated the idea amongst their favoured political lickspittles that Brown had mental health problems while the Iron Chancellor’s familiars regularly told anyone within listening range that the Prime Minister was a duplicitous charlatan who you wouldn’t trust to get the messages never mind wage an illegal war. Yet there they were at every party conference, clasping their raised hands together on the platform the way that political leaders do. Blair described Brown as the best Chancellor in UK political history; Brown said Blair was a towering leader who was making Britain great again. Down in the cheap seats Blairites and Brownies, who had spent the previous 12 months destroying the character and reputations of their parliamentary colleagues, wept tears of joy in each other’s arms and made plans to get bevvied together later that night in low seaside taverns. It was an entertaining sideshow and mattered not a jot to a mature electorate who sent them to Downing Street for three successive terms.

When the allegations against Alex Salmond were first reported Sturgeon spoke with wisdom and compassion about the matter in what must have been intensely difficult circumstances for her. She managed to convey her respect and affection for Salmond while asserting that a safe space must be created in which people can bring forward complaints of sexual misconduct.

In the five months that have since elapsed the creation of that safe space is further away than when this process started. Nicola Sturgeon isn’t responsible for that.

Among those who are urging her to walk the plank are many who claim to be deeply concerned about sexual misconduct. I’d say they care more about damaging a First Minister they couldn’t touch by fair means than they are about the welfare of the two women at the centre of this case.