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The Holyrood saga joins a long tradition of political scandals where the moral high ground is unclear

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The row currently preoccupying Holyrood is a complicated one – an understatement, one might say, especially if one has been trying to follow it in its slow progress through the courts and before the parliamentary enquiry that has been considering the issue.

I am not one of those who have been doing that – I suspect that very few people, other than those with a professional interest in following such things, have been able to master the ins-and-outs of this Shakespearean conflict between former colleagues.

Who has had the energy to do this?

So spectacular has this falling-out been that we shall probably need a new word to describe it. The gate suffix has probably been overdone – Watergate passed easily into the language as a handy way of referring to a dark period in American politics – although how innocent and small-scale it appears by the standards of recent years.

Mr Nixon seemed a wonderful pantomime villain at the time, with his scowl and his colourful friends. He also had a tape recorder that proved to be equipped with a handy erase button. He deleted a lot of expletives in the course of his career, and gave the language the expression “expletive deleted”. Today, of course, nobody bothers with that. Expletives are, if anything, inserted, in order to establish that one is not out of touch with the contemporary demotic, which is full of expletives.

I have actually stayed in the Watergate Hotel in Washington. It has a special burglars’ suite that you can stay in – at a considerable premium. I chose not to. I did not find........

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