Until a few days ago, the only contentious opinions I held about pizza were: 1) Anchovies, please; and 2) Chicago deep dish is not a pizza. Call it an Italian pie, a tomato and mozzarella flan, an edible bucket of sauce, whatever you like – just don’t call it pizza.
Now, as if she hadn’t visited enough indignities on the nation, Nicola Sturgeon wants to ban two-for-one deals on pizzas. This she confirmed following a meeting with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, last seen playing a Cockney on TV and banging out Ruby Murrays that had seen more of the Punjab than he ever has of the East End.
The health campaigner gushed: ‘Nicola Sturgeon has shown she cares about the health of Scotland’s kids.’
Announcing that you care is the bane of our age. You can make it more expensive for folk on modest incomes to feed their children but that’s OK because at least you care.
As someone not unfamiliar with the pleasures of a stonebaked ham and mushroom, it’s hard not to take this personally. As a native of the land that gave the world deep-fried pizza, I feel obliged to defend my cultural heritage.
Where else would they take a calorific combination of bread, cheese and meats, batter it and toss it into a vat of bubbling oil while scouring the shelf for salt and vinegar? Stop talking Scotland down, Nicola.
This cheerful abandon in the face of (early) death is what stood us in good stead at Bannockburn. We have courage coursing through our veins – and thank goodness, because precious little is getting around our arteries.
Even so, the First Minister might be onto something. Buy-one-get-one-free deals haven’t always served Scotland well. We’re still trying to work out how we ended up with two Murrells for the price of one.
It’s not just low-cost pizza. Sturgeon’s government wants to crack down on advertising for fatty and salty foods and to extend taxes on sugary drinks. At least Margaret Thatcher only took our milk. Sturgeon wants to empty the entire fridge.
The First Minister recently won her long (and expensive) legal battle for minimum unit pricing on alcohol, picking our pocket every time we fancy a bottle of something. We live in a country where Angela Constance qualifies as a Cabinet minister. Is it any wonder we drink?
Somehow, Saint Nicola of the Sacred Selfie has turned into Supernanny Sturgeon, a finger-wagging, eyebrow-raising, tut-tutting interferer. Where once thousands packed into concert halls to hang on her every word, now they just want her to give it a rest.
We don’t have a First Minister so much as the human equivalent of a self-service checkout: ‘Do you know how much sugar is in that cake? Do you really need that second G&T? Did you not see the half-price offer on peas and carrots?’
You can’t even leave her behind in the bagging area. If she’s not trying to stick a state snooper on your family or tell you how to bring up your children, she’s chivvying you to walk a mile a day or watch your alcohol units. She believes she should still control what songs you sing at football matches.
Even some Nationalist diehards find the hectoring a bit tedious – and many in the wider population regularly do themselves an injury diving for the remote whenever she pops up on the news.
Since the SNP came to power, the scope of liberty for the average Scot has grown narrower. We are able to make fewer decisions for ourselves, these choices having been taken away by our betters, who have determined us incapable of rational free will.
What the First Minister does not like, she bans; what she cannot ban, she taxes; what she cannot tax, she regulates; what she cannot regulate, she demands the power to do so. Nationalists do not believe in freedom, only in the imposition of a nanny state by bureaucrats with the correct accents.
This leads to logical contortions of utter absurdity. Ministers and public health officials are itching to ban smoking outright but figure they can’t get away with it. So they come up with burdensome regulations like the tobacco display ban, which has turned every corner shop into an inconvenience store where queues lengthen as shopkeepers try to remember which brand of the demon weed is located behind which blank flap.
This ban is enforced by the same government that has discovered the joys of libertarianism when it comes to class A drugs, and wants to set up ‘shooting galleries’ where users can safely inject.
A reasonable mind may conclude that tobacco and heroin should both be legal or both be proscribed; or that tobacco should be permitted but heroin should not because of the disproportionate harm it causes. It takes some doing to arrive at the SNP position that a pack of 20 must be hidden behind a metal curtain while handing out smack like cough syrup at needle bars.
How did Nicola Sturgeon get to this point? The beatific glow of 2015 is gone – and with it the promise of a new and dynamic Scotland. In almost four years as First Minister, she has failed to stamp a distinctive agenda on the machinery of government.
For a time, education was her ‘number one priority’; but today those words ring hollow, blackly comic even, given her abject failure to close the attainment gap in the classroom.
Beyond that, and a few modulations of tone on the Salmond years, Miss Sturgeon’s impact has been one of surface and personality, albeit with one or two pet issues (some commendable) bolted on.
Where is her bold agenda for the nation? Sturgeon is little more than Salmond without the swagger. There are no transformative ideas, no ideas at all beyond you-know-what. So we will be banning two-for-one pizzas because, after years of pining for and eventually clinching power, our First Minister hasn’t a clue what she wants to do with it.
After months of preparations, anxieties, reports and counter-reports, in the end Prince Harry and his bride Meghan Markle shared a perfect wedding day with the world.
Now styled the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton north of the Border), the happy couple were the picture of hope, joy and radiance at the weekend.
What a rotten day for Britain’s sour, ever-complaining republicans. Not only did they have to endure yet another reminder of how much Brits love the Royal Family, they saw the biggest threat to their movement accepted with open arms by The Firm.
The Duchess of Sussex is a thoroughly modern royal and appeals to young people, currently the most likely to hold anti-monarchy views. Republicans were hoping millennials, as they came of age and dominated the country’s politics and institutions, would be the generation to see off the monarchy for good.
Not so fast. Meghan is Princess Millennial – and we love her for it.
Princess Anne’s crimson wraparound attracted some snarky comments from right-on Twitter types hate-watching Saturday’s proceedings. They compared her outfit to a housecoat. Tosh. The Princess Royal, one of the hardest-working HRHs, looked elegant as ever. Besides, I thought commenting on what women wear was sexist, Lefties?
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Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.