"What on earth was Nicola Sturgeon thinking of?" spluttered an incredulous Gordon Brewer repeatedly on Newsnight Scotland earlier tonight. Well, whether people agree with her actions or not, I don't actually think there's a lot of mystery about what she was thinking of. She was taking her responsibilities as a constituency representative seriously, and was trying to act in the best interests of her constituents - constituents plural, let's not forget, because the welfare of Abdul Rauf's children was also uppermost in her mind. Brewer (and Richard Baker) continually pointed out that Sturgeon had no duty to act and had complete discretion over whether to do so - and, again, there's no sign that she lost sight of that at any stage. My guess is that she took into account that Rauf's offence was non-violent (however serious), and when taking that fact in conjunction with his apparent health problems and the welfare of his children, felt that the balance of arguments fell in favour of making a representation on his behalf. Other reasonable people may weigh up those circumstances and conclude she reached the wrong judgement, but the suggestion that she lost sight of the proper boundaries of an MSP's role - and more particularly Brewer's bizarre proposition that she would have acted in the same way even if the offender concerned had been a serial killer - is patently absurd.
But what's really dangerous about the cynical calls for Sturgeon's resignation is that it could mean in future that ministers will feel considerably less able to fearlessly represent individual constituents' best interests, which is a vital part of their job. Why should constituencies that happen to be represented by a minister receive a lesser service than those represented by backbenchers? In my view Sturgeon should be applauded for this clear evidence that she hasn't lost sight of her basic duties as a humble constituency MSP - surely the one thing no-one can credibly dispute is that there was no conceivable personal gain for her here.