Around a year ago, after the Scottish budget had passed at the second attempt, I pondered here on whether the SNP government had just come through its defining trial, and effectively secured its full four-year term in office. Although there was still the obvious test of one more budget to come, I thought it was highly unlikely that the opposition parties would seek to bring down Alex Salmond's administration when a) a Westminster election is so close and b) there is only one more year to go until the next Holyrood poll. A few months later, the emergence out of nowhere of the Megrahi controversy made such a prediction seem - temporarily at least - quite foolish and premature. And yet, here we are, with this year's budget passed and with no more hurdles that we know about needing to be jumped between now and May 2011.
'Know about' being the operative phrase - what happened with Megrahi late last summer is a reminder that there is always what Donald Rumsfeld might pithily describe as "unknown unknowns, that is to say things that we do not know that we do not know". And beyond the totally unforseeable, there is also the nightmare scenario that we've always known about of the tight Holyrood arithmetic changing - which of course could happen very suddenly. But it hasn't happened over the last three years, and the odds on it happening yet are lengthening by the day.
So if the SNP are indeed set to see out their full term of office despite holding just a one-seat advantage over the largest opposition party, it really is quite an achievement in itself. My recollection from the coverage in May 2007 is that academics were pointing out that there was no example of a minority government in the whole of Europe successfully functioning despite being so far short of a majority, and Robin Harper revealed that the general consensus at Holyrood was that the government would last for two years before being forced to seek a fresh mandate. So we shouldn't lose sight of how those early expectations have been exceeded with such apparent ease.