When you're running a minority government that holds just a one seat advantage over the principal opposition party the first priority is to keep your parliamentary group happy and united - or failing that, just disciplined will do. For it only takes one disgruntled backbencher to wreak havoc - and possibly bring the government down. And bearing that in mind I had a degree of foreboding in May 2007 when the newly elected First Minister Alex Salmond pointedly omitted the big-hitters Alex Neil and Roseanna Cunningham from his ministerial line-up, and gave another significant figure Mike Russell a notably more junior role than might have been anticipated. For Cunningham in particular this represented a dizzying reversal of fortune - until the summer of 2004 she had been SNP deputy leader and, until the dramatic turn of events just hours before nominations closed, had been well on course to be elected John Swinney's successor as party leader. Now she was a mere backbencher, perhaps punished for not being a signed-up member of 'team Salmond'. Out of such situations do poisonous grievances and factionalism take root.
Or so you'd think. For what has in fact happened over the last two years is that both Neil and Cunningham have proved extraordinarily useful to Alex Salmond, deploying their communication skills to take the Scottish government's case forcefully to the airwaves, and in a way that the extra freedom of the backbenches allowed. Today they receive their reward for having done so, and the Scottish government line-up suddenly has a strengthened, more balanced look about it. One slight tinge of regret, however - it's hard not to feel sorry for Linda Fabiani, who whatever her failings had a passion for her job at culture that was unmistakable and infectious.