Nicola: The figures are wrong. Kez: Eh, they’re yours, actually.

MSPs were heading off for their summer holidays but there was some last-minute business to attend to.

Holyrood debated changes to the rules and members lined up to welcome the measures. This strongly indicated they hadn’t read them since they will allow the Presiding Officer to cut MSPs off mid-sentence when they get too long-winded.

How Ruth Davidson must wish they had come into force a day earlier. It was all going so well at First Minister’s Questions. The Tory leader tossed Nicola Sturgeon around the chamber like wounded quarry over delays to farm payments, accusing her of ‘not being straight’ about what she knew and when she knew it. The SNP backbenches chanted ‘DUP’ as a reminder of Theresa May’s supply and confidence deal with Ulster MPs. The SNP isn’t keen on the DUP. They’re a party of flag-waving grievance-mongers whose first minister’s poll ratings crashed amid ministerial incompetence and constitutional divisiveness. And the DUP isn’t much better.

The footsoldiers were in stronger spirits than their general, who looked scunnered and more than a little exhausted. ‘Recess cannot come soon enough for the First Minister,’ shot back Miss Davidson. All that not getting on with the day job must be taking its toll.

But it was the Tory boss’s turn to yearn for a tropical beach far away when her MSP Gordon Lindhurst got to his feet and demanded the Scottish Government tackle the gender pay gap… against men. Mr Lindhurst sat down looking terribly pleased with himself but his leader’s face was turning various shades of puce. As Miss Sturgeon pointed out, ‘Ruth Davidson is slowly sliding under the desk in front of her.’ Miss Davidson had the look of a woman who would like to close the gender gap between her foot and a certain part of Mr Lindhurst’s anatomy.

Well may we laugh but many are the hurdles Mr Lindhurst has had to vault as a white middle class man in the turbulent world of Edinburgh law. They should make a movie about his struggles. 12 Years a Solicitor. If you’re wondering how such a mind ended up convener of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work committee, know that John Mason is his deputy. It’s like putting Jon Snow in charge of a nightly news programme.

Miss Sturgeon had some fun with Mr Lindhurst but saved her best comeback for Willie Rennie. After the Lib Dem leader painted a (completely accurate) picture of Scotland’s policing crisis, the First Minister quipped: ‘Willie Rennie lives in a wee world of his own most of the time… maybe I will join it one day and take some of whatever he is on.’ Who could blame her if she turned to mind-altering substances to dull the pain of a horrendous few months.

As Miss Davidson’s backbencher spoiled her last day of term, Kezia Dugdale swooped in to claim all the house points. She berated the Nationalist chief over figures showing the SNP had cut more than £1000 in funding for every secondary school pupil in Scotland. The First Minister didn’t accept the figures, leaving Miss Dugdale to point out they were her government’s figures.

The past 12 months have not been kind to Miss Dugdale. She finished third in the Holyrood and local elections and had the contents of a private phone conversation leaked by Nicola Sturgeon on live TV. And yet she has hardened Labour’s opposition to independence and taken the fight to the SNP over its serial haplessness. Miss Dugdale now has seven MPs at Westminster and is slowly learning how to get under the First Minister’s skin. At some point during her annus Corbynillis, Miss Dugdale toughened up. Kez the social worker who knows you’ve been through a bit of a rough patch — would you like a cuppa and a Wagon Wheel and a wee chat? — has gone and Kez the street fighter has taken her place.

She can afford to relax by the pool this summer while the First Minister continues to tread water.

Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at

Feature image © Scottish Government by Creative Commons 2.0.

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