Question time at Holyrood began with a solemn statement from the First Minister.
Her tone recalled those disaster movies where the US President makes his final stoic address to the nation as an asteroid hurtles to Earth or a barrage of Kremlin warheads zeroes in on New York.
She intoned: ‘Conditions such as those that we are experiencing now make disruption and inconvenience inevitable. I think that everybody understands that — although many people across the country are working hard to minimise the disruption and inconvenience. The priority is, and will continue to be at all times, public safety.’
In case you’re wondering, the sky is not raining down space rocks and the Russkies have been on their best behaviour. Rather, Scotland is experiencing a phenomenon known as ‘weather’, which has brought our entire transport infrastructure to a halt.
The Scottish Tories have even had to cancel their Aberdeen conference. Instead, Ruth Davidson will spend the weekend intervening in snowball fights telling youngsters now is not the time for another divisive contest.
This might have been a good point to ask why a country that lies 4,000 miles north of the equator and a two-hour flight from Iceland keeps getting caught off-guard by snow.
Instead, the First Minister wanted everyone to know she thought the emergency services were saints. Mountain rescue too. Oh, and local councils. Not to forget transport workers, of course. Maybe that’s what was causing all these train cancellations: Virtue signalling problems.
Ruth Davidson had a go at the First Minister over financial support for businesses. First, the SNP had announced a Scottish Investment Bank, to be followed by a Scottish Business Development Bank, which became the Scottish Growth Scheme, and shouldn’t be confused with the new Scottish National Investment Bank. The First Minister’s got more branches than the Clydesdale Bank. She should pack in this independence malarkey and go for a merger with Goldman Sachs.
Weren’t all these disjointed schemes a bit confusing, Davidson queried. Bah! scoffed the First Minister. Who could be confused by this regime, which was perfectly straightforward as long as you didn’t mind going round in circles a few times.
‘Nobody seems to have told her office,’ the Tory leader zinged back. ‘When we made a freedom of information request, asking for details of the new investment bank, it wrote back asking which one we were talking about.’
Ouch. Davidson had obviously had a bad experience with a building society and was gleefully taking it out on her opposite number. The SNP, she snorted, was ‘keen to get the headlines for launches and relaunches but forgets to even start to build the actual bank until nine years later’. The First Minister was overdrawn from the reserves of spin and had been caught short.
Sturgeon argued that Scotland’s exports were up, including more than £4billion for whisky. It’s true, we’ve been sending all sorts of costly items across the globe, though mostly the First Minister on her various world tours.
Soon enough, Patrick Harvie was on his sandals defending his First Minister. The SNP was about to ask MSPs to give their initial backing to an emergency EU continuity Bill. Harvie got in first by telling Sturgeon her legislation was a ‘necessary response to the Brexit crisis’. His support for the Scottish Government is so dutiful it now extends to preemptive echoing.
Ashten Regan-Denham, Nationalist MSP for Edinburgh Eastern and someone so posh she would make Nancy Mitford sound like a guest on Jeremy Kyle, ascended and asked to be apprised of Brexit negotiations with UK ministers. Since the Nationalists were about to introduce the legislative equivalent of a giant middle finger in Westminster’s direction, it’s safe to say the answer is ‘not well’.
Anas Sarwar pointed out that cuts to nurses’ training places had been made by Nicola Sturgeon in her time as health secretary. He asked if she would like to admit her mistake and apologise for it.
He must be new.