Analysis: We're in the end game now for Nicola Sturgeon

By Wednesday afternoon, it will be all over.

Both inquiry reports will have been made public, and a vote of no confidence (VONC) by MSPs held – and no doubt won by Nicola Sturgeon. Then it will be the last FMQs before the Parliament breaks for the election campaign and all focus will again be on the constitutional question.

At least that is how the First Minister is hoping things will pan out.

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She will feel she’s already 1-0 up against her political opponents with the publication of the James Hamilton inquiry report. It cleared her of four accounts of alleged breaches of the ministerial code, although still left room for some doubt around whether she misled Parliament over when she first knew of the sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon is still facing a vote of no confidence.

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What the Hamilton inquiry into Nicola Sturgeon's actions says

Despite his report, opposition parties believe her jacket is still hanging on a shoogily peg, even if she believes the Hamilton hammer has rammed it into the wall quite securely.

Tomorrow sees the publication of the Holyrood committee inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against Mr Salmond. Unlike Mr Hamilton’s investigations, this inquiry has played out publicly and very politically.

Leaks have revealed the committee does believe Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament – but maybe not “knowingly” – as well as the obvious row among committee members about what it will actually conclude and whose head, or indeed heads, need to roll for the loss of the judicial review and £500,000-plus of taxpayers’ cash.

However, if the leak was supposed to shore up support for the Scottish Conservative’s vote of no confidence in the First Minister on Tuesday, it may have backfired.

There was consternation about the original leak but the latest one revealed information received from the complainers, once again turning the lives of two women with serious allegations into pawns in a game of chess where the only goal for some is to vanquish the queen at all costs.

The politicisation of the report has also, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the Scottish Greens another reason to side with the government.

Maybe if the Hamilton report had found against her they would have felt the pressure to vote with the other opposition parties. As it stands now, they will not bring down Nicola Sturgeon. So the VONC will be, like those against John Swinney before them, lost.

But the First Minister has said she will respect the result of both reports – even if she too is decrying the committee’s conclusions before they’re published.

While she’s not one for taking lessons from anyone on opposition benches, she says so often enough in First Minister’s Questions, if they find she misled Parliament, she will have to accept that conclusion.

Resignation is now likely next to non-existent as an outcome.

But if she dismisses the report out of hand, she will make a mockery of the Parliament and its processes, and further underline growing concerns the Parliament just does not have the power it needs to hold the government to account; that devolved government is toothless.

What irony it would be if, at the end of all of this, even if she remains as First Minister, and returned to power after the election in May, she will be the politician who fatally undermines trust in the Scottish Parliament.

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