The SNP’s Voldemort… She Who Must Not Be Questioned

How to describe Nicola Sturgeon’s performance at First Minister’s Questions?

Dismal? Too generous.

Hopeless? Closer.

Dunderheided? Yes… that’s about right. (Besides, using a Scots word probably entitles us to a grant now.)

The First Minister dundered and blundered and chuntered her way through 45 minutes of the greatest hits of SNP failure. Education, health and transport, with a sample of Brexit-related grievance to change up the record a bit.

Whatever she was trying to do, it didn’t work. It’s not just her Government that is hapless these days; her efforts to justify it are increasingly hare-brained.

Take education. Ruth Davidson asked if the Nationalists were keeping their promise not to restrict subject choice in secondary schools.

The First Minister: ‘The number of young people who are leaving our schools with Advanced Highers is increasing.’

Wait, that’s not what she asked…

Davidson persevered. Pupils in the wealthiest parts of Scotland have a 70 per cent chance of choosing from a dozen Advanced Highers. What was the figure for the poorest areas?

Sturgeon didn’t know but, she added: ‘I think that what matters is the number of our poorest pupils who are getting Advanced Highers.’

The Tory leader gave it another shot. Just two schools in Scotland’s most deprived communities give youngsters a choice of 12 or more Advanced Highers. Did the First Minister support an inquiry into the matter?

‘There are more young people leaving school with Advanced Highers…’

Had she malfunctioned? Would someone have to take the robot back to Currys for retuning?

No, it was Nicola Sturgeon relying on a familiar trick: Don’t answer the question you’re asked, answer the question you wanted to be asked. That way, the First Minister could preside over woeful inputs while talking up vaguely presentable outputs.

As my granny, God rest her, used to say: ‘She could buy you and sell you with the one breath.’

Confronted with a damning study by Professor Jim Scott, the FM cooed: ‘I make no criticism whatsoever of Dr Scott’s work…’ then proceeded to criticise his sample, methodology, results and analysis. OK, but did she at least like the typeface?

No matter how hard she tries to tamp it down – and, honestly, she doesn’t try all that hard – the First Minister’s impatience with interrogatives not approved in advance by her equerries is always palpable.

Nicola Sturgeon is the Voldemort of Scottish politics: She Who Must Not Be Questioned.

Braving the usual squalling and guffawing from the Nationalist backbenches, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raised the plight of young people who had come forward for mental health support but been turned away.

I don’t have any jokes about those MSPs who chortled over a question about sick children pleading for help but I do have a few examples of what the aforementioned Granny Daisley called ‘language’.

Mr Leonard revved up like a steam engine and thundered into the First Minister’s dreary record. What happened to her audit into rejected mental health referrals for young people? The SNP loves nothing more than an audit, except maybe a good review or a half-decent listening exercise.

It would be out at the end of June, she said. Fifteen months after it started, she didn’t say.

Her cool complacency and the scornful argle-bargle behind her sharpened Mr Leonard’s tone. Since her slow-coach audit was announced, Scottish children had been knocked back for help a further 5,000 times.

Dripping venom like an apoplectic Yorkshire roast, Mr Leonard crackled: ‘The First Minister once said that she had “a sacred responsibility – to make sure every young person… gets the same chance… to succeed”. Where on Earth is that “sacred responsibility” to those children?’

Within the first 20 minutes of FMQs, Sturgeon had been skewered by two politicians she only ever looks at in a downwind nasal direction. Pure dunderheidery.

Agree? Disagree? Want to have your say? Email

Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at image © Scottish Government (cc-by-nc/2.0).

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