We made it. Six weeks of these ghastly, preening, pontificating characters hectoring us every time we tune in for the weather forecast and finally the end is in sight.
By ten o’clock tomorrow night, it’ll all be over and we can go back to getting our political debate from Gogglebox.
The STV debate was branded Scotland Decides, though someone had forgotten to add ‘… to Watch a Touch of Frost Repeat on the Other Side’.
The First Minister was back on terra firma after a week spent touring Scotland in her SNP-branded helicopter — 10,000ft in the air and it was still the closest she’s ever got to Govanhill. She’s not had a great campaign. After two years of being told she walks on water, she’s become convinced St Andrew is the other patron saint of Scotland. When she has encountered the voters, such as teachers and nurses in TV debates, she has seemed sincerely shocked that there are Scots who don’t want to take a selfie but give her a piece of their mind.
Miss Sturgeon is evidently still coming to terms with this because once again she had turned up as Self-Righteous of Charlotte Square, at one point demanding ‘how do Tories sleep at night?’ It’s a pity the debate was only an hour and a half long or she could have delivered her class talk on the injustices of animal testing.
The STV production was shoutier than other debates, with the leaders periodically bawling over each other like nap-deprived toddlers. Moderator Bernard Ponsonby essayed that the proceedings were ‘sparky’, which is a bit like describing a Glasgow pub brawl as ‘robust dialogue on football matters’. Ruth, Kezia, and Willie bellowed at Nicola over independence; Nicola, Kezia and Willie screeched at Ruth over the ‘rape clause’ in benefits reform. Still, it wasn’t all bad. No nurses were harmed in the making of this programme.
The real damage was done to Kezia Dugdale, a round directly to the foot. The First Minister revealed that after the EU referendum Miss Dugdale confided in her that Scottish Labour might ditch its opposition to independence. The Labour leader mugged and gasped but didn’t explicitly, definitively deny the allegation. If Miss Dugdale did say it, it was rank amateurism but it also tells you something about the character of Nicola Sturgeon that she would disclose a private phone conversation on a television broadcast. Class, unlike her slinky shoes, comes cheap.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson had to tough it out when the other three ganged up on her over welfare changes. She was visibly uncomfortable going to bat for policies she clearly doesn’t believe in but she pulled it back, needling Miss Sturgeon on her constitutional fixation. ‘Just give us a bit of peace,’ the Tory boss pleaded on independence, a simple line but one that resonated even with the distinctly Nat-inclined studio audience. (One gentleman in the cheap seats asked if they were ‘split four ways or are the SNP members just louder’.)
The First Minister and her in-studio fan club didn’t like the Indyref 2 chat one bit and heckled the Scottish Tory leader repeatedly. They must be the only nationalists on the planet who want to talk about anything other than their nationalism. Miss Davidson got in the dig of the night, though. Chivvied by the Cybernat in Chief, she eventually snapped. ‘This isn’t a cabinet meeting. I do get to respond, you know.’ A fair few Holyrood ministers would have chuckled along at home but they won’t dare admit it at work today.
Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at email@example.com.