PICKING through the carnage that followed last week’s revelations about why the civil service inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Alex Salmond was deemed unlawful, I can only imagine how the two women at the heart of his case must feel.
Having summoned up the courage to speak to their bosses about the behaviour of a man who was once the most powerful in Scotland, they must now be aghast at the farce that they have had to watch unfold.
This was the highest-profile case the Scottish Government’s HR department could ever have imagined it would deal with and in the immediate post #MeToo aftermath, it was a golden opportunity to show off Scotland’s progressive credentials and how a disciplinary process could operate that allows fairness, dignity and justice for all.
How could it not get that right?
And damagingly, if anyone believed that having women design, implement, manage and lead on claims of sexual harassment was somehow a guarantee of future success or of greater sensitivity in their handling, then they have now been proved spectacularly wrong.
And for that, the Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, and the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who together signed off on the procedures, must now accept their blame.
And while both have apologised to the women involved, they have also attempted to minimise a catastrophic mistake by continuing to repeat the mantra that the legal case fell on just one small element of the process.
That one fundamental mistake nullified the whole shebang and could cost the public a whopping half a million pounds in legal costs. And for that, heads should roll.
But it has also cost hope. Hope that if we move to a society where women lead and play their part in helping to shape institutions where they put gender equality at the core, then we could all operate in workplaces where we feel free of the fear of sexual abuse or discrimination.
How can we trust that to happen now when the two most powerful women in our country have failed on that count within our own government?
There is much in this whole sorry saga that is hard to compute and many questions to be answered. But Salmond has won the first round, at great cost to the Scottish Government and to his one-time political protégé, who now, amid a series of explosive revelations about her conversations with her predecessor, faces the biggest test of her career as questions rage about what she knew when she knew.
Round two will be if the police throw out the case against her former mentor and we are then into another phase of the SNP journey.
In September, I questioned where Sturgeon would be now without Salmond. It seems that hurt. It was not, however, meant to denigrate her considerable ability or question her worth now as First Minister but there is an undeniable fact, Sturgeon would not be First Minister had Salmond not got there first.
The question for now is whether he will ultimately be the one to unseat her?