Alex Salmond cut a shaken, but defiant figure as he faced the darkest day of his long political career.
Some of the old pomp was clearly still there as the former First Minister shook hands with supporters on the way into Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday, running a gauntlet of public and media onlookers with lawyer Callum Anderson and media adviser Campbell Gunn. Shouts of “freedom” rang out from supporters, along with more unsavoury barbs from those less well disposed to the former SNP leader.
The hearing front of Sheriff Frank Crowe in Court 2 of the Chambers Street building was held in private in line with the usual first appearance scenarios in “solemn” cases which cover more serious crimes in Scotland.
It lasted just five minutes and hardly seemed worth the journey for the dozens of journalists who ventured into the court lobby.
They were left trying to catch a glimpse through the doors of the action inside the courtroom while police officers stood guard to keep them out.
And then Mr Salmond emerged to face the media. It must have felt like a lifetime – in fact just over a fortnight – for Mr Salmond since he stood just round the block outside the Court of Session to hail a dramatic victory against the government he once led over procedures it used to investigate complaints against him.
Shouts of “Captain, My Captain” rang out from supporters as Salmond delivered a steadfast rejection of the charges and pledged to fight them. There were even flashes of this trademark bullishness as he told reporters he would love to take their questions and talk some more, but court rules prevented him from doing so.
It may be that the next chance he gets to speak publicly will be from the dock.