Politics can be cruel. Reshuffles can be the cruellest. You arrive in your ministerial car and, should you no longer be in favour, you have to find your own transport home.
Politics can also be kind. Just ask Alex Salmond. After generations in opposition, the Scottish National Party now has all the ministerial cars.
Having them is one thing, believing that they are yours is another. It took several days and the odd diligent driver to stop certain ministers from hailing taxis as they came out of meetings. For several members of the Scottish Cabinet, there is a genuine and continuing feeling of unease at some of the trappings.
After a dinner near Holyrood in June, I came across our guest of honour, the new Minister for Public Health keeping out of the rain in a bus shelter listening to a man who was concerned about something. She was handing him a card and asking that he email her the next day, promising to sort it out.
Looking out to welcome the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing at a conference in Perth, I found her wandering down the street towards the venue. She said her driver had gone to the wrong end of the one way street and it was quicker just to get out and walk.
The point of mentioning both these incidents is not so much that these people with high offices were conducting themselves in the matter-of-fact way of their pre-administration days, but that they were without a personal secretary, press officer and not one single civil servant in sight.
It would be wrong to suggest that the newish Scottish Government has dispensed with its civil service support structure. Far from it, it is simply that Scottish Government Ministers, almost to a man and woman, are weighing the facts as they see them with the information they are receiving from their teams.
Half a dozen ministers continue to ask that information be sent directly to their own email box so they can read it and decide how to act. One minister insists on responding personally the same day.
Far from feeling snubbed, civil servants I have spoken to have found the new Government is allowing them to do their job better. One told me that there was a clarity of purpose from his minister. The minister listened – though not just to the civil service team – made the decisions and set the policy. The minister then trusted in the civil service to deliver on the challenges set.
For the civil service the biggest change, arguably, is not in the relationship with ministers but in the relationship with their counterparts in Whitehall. Where once it would be routine for an official in Edinburgh or Glasgow to have a conversation with his or her colleague in the parallel department in London, now it is all but forbidden.
The Permanent Secretary, John Elvidge’s logic in building the barriers is undeniable. If an SNP minister in Scotland wants to do something or floats an idea and the minister’s civil servants tell their counterparts in Whitehall all about it then the London-based teams are duty bound to brief their (Labour) Westminster master or mistress. As party political blood runs thicker than water, he or she will then tell their Labour colleagues in Scotland who can then start toying with the Government in time honoured fashion.
John Macgill is Director of the Scottish policy practice, Morhamburn Ltd www.morhamburn.com