If you are thoughtless enough to have been born into that pestilent segment of the population commonly referred to as blokes, fellas, or ‘are you going to get round to fixing that bathroom shelf some time this year?’, International Women’s Day is an annual test you are doomed to fail.
Whatever you say, it’s sure to be wrong. Rhyme off the achievements of women and you’re mansplaining. Keep your head down and avoid eye contact — why are you ignoring the achievements of women? And whatever you do, don’t enquire if there’s an International Men’s Day. Not even as a joke. There is one, it’s November 19, and if you ask about it you still won’t have heard the end of it by the time it comes around.
At First Minister’s Questions, the benighted gender tried to keep in the good books. Richard Leonard offered the sisterhood ‘greetings and solidarity’ and everything but the charred remnants of his burned bra. Patrick Harvie urged Holyrood to ‘recommit ourselves to progress on gender equality and justice’. The solitary woman in his parliamentary group, Alison Johnstone, could have been forgiven for mumbling, ‘You go first, champ.’
Fellow Green MSP Andy Wightman had gone all the way and turned up in a tieless, open-necked shirt. Whether this was a feminist challenge to sexist dress codes or he had a set at the Copacabana after lunch no one could be sure.
Aptly enough, the men were irrelevant to proceedings dominated by the usual Sturgeon-Davidson slugfest. The army of highly trained research ferrets she keeps at Tory Towers had dug up some treasures for Davidson. A survey of Scotland’s GPs had produced some colourful views about the SNP. One sawbones quipped: ‘I think the Scottish Government has forgotten that Scotland extends north of Perth.’
The First Minister wanted a second opinion — her own. ‘Where the Tories are in power in the United Kingdom, the decline in the number of GPs is double what it is in Scotland.’ It was Sturgeon’s standard prescription: Take one false equivalence three times a day and come back next week.
Ruth Davidson enjoys learning about the intricacies of verruca removals in Shropshire but she was really here to talk about Scotland. The place where a quarter of GP surgeries are short at least one medic and health boards are shelling out more than £300 million on locums.
The Tory leader’s point darted in Sturgeon’s direction but she was too quick, somersaulting over it and proclaiming, triumphantly: ‘Ruth Davidson might be interested to know that that is a third less, proportionately, than the figure south of the Border, where of course the Conservatives are in government.’
Dr Sturgeon: I’m afraid you only have six months to live.
Dr Sturgeon: I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE COMPLAINING ABOUT. IF WE WERE IN ENGLAND, I’D BE KICKING YOUR CAT WHILE BREAKING THIS NEWS TO YOU.
The First Minister’s eternal plea, Davidson sighed, was ‘judge me by my promises for tomorrow, not by my record today’. Either that, or pivot to what’s happening down south.
What? Infamy! Calumny! ‘We set our own standards and do not judge ourselves by standards elsewhere,’ Sturgeon informed her rival, curtly. I don’t know what she’s on but they should give it out free on the NHS.
In a surprise intervention, Nationalist Sandra White fired a decidedly sharp question at her boss over the impending closure of Scottish Youth Theatre. Coming in the supposed Year of Young People, the decision to cut funding was ‘a big slap in the face’. Sturgeon had not expected it. It seems those whispers about dissent in the ranks are more than just rumours.
The only respite came when Gillian Martin, MSP for somewhere up north and unrelentingly grim, queried how things were going with apprenticeships. Wouldn’t you know, Sturgeon had an upbeat story to tell.
Martin has become a familiar fixture on the toadying circuit. Her questions aren’t just planted; they’ve grown roots.