Humble pie, please waiter. A large portion. No, just one spoon — the lady will be dining alone.
There was a delicious moment near the end of yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions when Nicola Sturgeon’s galloping ascent to the moral high ground took a tumble. Murdo Fraser noted that the SNP leader had spent last weekend in paroxysms of outrage after London Mayor Sadiq Khan compared nationalism and racism.
After condemning his injudicious language, Mr Fraser ventured, the First Minister would surely wish to denounce another example.
The Tory MSP intoned: ‘Let us not reflect on concerns that we have been under the heel of foreign influence and power for 300 years. The island of Britain is no longer subject to the actions of quislings who may seek to see smaller cultures extinguished on an island of coffins by redcoats.’
What a calumny! Had Mr Khan been at it again? Alas, the words belonged to Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy leader on Perth and Kinross Council.
Hold the humble pie, after all. ‘No matter who they come from, I condemn any comments or language that are in any way, shape or form racist or anti-English,’ the First Minister insisted. No matter who they come from? Is she expecting Willie Rennie to paint his face blue and leather a coach trip of Morris dancers?
If Miss Sturgeon’s answer sounds unedifying, it was still her finest moment at FMQs. Under pressure on her dismal schools record, the First Minister went full Salmond, sneering, guffawing, gesticulating. Now, Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale did cite facts about educational attainment under the SNP, which is just plain unsportsmanlike.
Miss Sturgeon became infuriated, snapping at Miss Davidson to ‘get behind this government’s reforms instead of continuing to come to this chamber and simply moan’. She really struggles with this concept of opposition. Heading up a party that welcomes dissent in the same way the mafia welcomes unpaid debts, Miss Sturgeon is unfamiliar with other points of view.
Pressing further on education, Kezia Dugdale did that thing where she tips her head to the side and looks concerned. This is how you know she’s about to talk about Something Important. The Nationalists had been in power for a decade and the Scottish Labour leader wanted to know when they were finally going to get a grip on education policy.
Sturgeon went for her: ‘That question demonstrates that, when a member of Kezia Dugdale’s party, after spending the weekend at the Labour conference, described Kezia Dugdale as simply a “pound shop Ruth Davidson”, he was absolutely right, although maybe it is more like buy one, get one free.’
The First Minister’s education record is woeful but her impersonation of Alex Salmond is cracking.
Miss Dugdale wasn’t taking any snash, reminding Miss Sturgeon: ‘Since May, the government has launched more than 120 consultations and reviews, which is three a week. The enterprise review alone has three reviews within it and the health and social care delivery plan has another four reviews within it. There is even a review into the review of fracking.’
Miss Sturgeon seethed.
Willie Rennie had a go on national testing. Wasn’t she taking schools back to the bad old days of Michael Forsyth? Everyone remembers Mr Forsyth. He tried to privatise the tuck shops and smashed the militant Parent Teacher Association. Miss Sturgeon insisted she didn’t support national testing, she supported standardised assessment. These were completely different, obviously.
On education, Miss Sturgeon likes to talk priorities, not outcomes, and for good reason. When she took over from Alex Salmond in 2014 she was regarded as a straight-A student. Now, her record is hovering precariously above an ‘F’.
Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at email@example.com.