LATE last week, leaked conclusions from the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints (‘Salmond Inquiry’) reported that the Committee has found Nicola Sturgeon’s account of events surrounding her predecessor was “hard to believe” and that she has indeed misled the Scottish Parliament.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who listened to her testimony which was riddled with inconsistencies and convenient failings in an otherwise perfect recollection of events.

It is notable that despite repeatedly being asked, Nicola Sturgeon has never once committed to resign if the committee reached this conclusion. Instead, she has consistently deflected by accusing others of prejudging the outcome of the committee and has urged us all to allow the inquiry process to take its course. Indeed, she herself has personally pledged to fully respect the committee’s work.

But the rank hypocrisy of those claims have been clear from the beginning – bearing in mind her Government has tried every trick in the book to impede the inquiry’s work. And the words have never rung more hollow than when the First Minister’s immediate response to the reported conclusions was to trash the integrity of committee members and cast the process as a partisan witch hunt. So much for respecting the work of the committee eh?

The truth is that Nicola Sturgeon has built her reputation on the appearance of honesty and empathy but this sorry affair reveals her for what she has been all along – a self-serving politician more interested in saving her own skin than telling the truth to the people of Scotland.

And in their desperation to save their dear leader, high-ranking SNP politicians have debased themselves and the offices they hold. At the same time as they accuse others of prejudging the committee report based on leaked conclusions, three SNP members of the committee publicly expressed dissent from the report and in doing so likely breached their own MSP code of conduct. It’s almost as though they are angry that the vindication they had decided the committee would deliver from the very beginning didn’t work out the way they thought it would.

Other SNP partisans have laughably claimed that the idea Nicola Sturgeon would have offered to ­intervene to help her predecessor is ridiculous – outrageous even. They claim it would be completely out of character for her to do so.

But this is the same Nicola Sturgeon who knew about harassment complaints against her Westminster Chief Whip for years and did nothing. This is the same Nicola Sturgeon whose office attempted to suppress publication of revelations about her then Finance Secretary’s lewd text messages to a 16-year-old boy. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Well, Nicola Sturgeon has taken the public for fools on at least three occasions in relation to allegations she and her party have used their position of dominance in Scottish politics to look after their own.

At First Minister’s Questions last week, Nicola Sturgeon talked about an old boys’ club protecting Alex Salmond. Well on the evidence of recent years – she is this club’s head girl, its president, its communications director and its commander in chief. And now she is calling in her chips. The club is closing ranks around its most important member in a last-ditch attempt to save her job. That is Nicola Sturgeon’s first, last and only priority at the present moment. The mask is slipping and soon, she’ll be found out.