The First Minister was reeling.
Under a raging barrage of questions, she ducked, twisted and side-stepped with all the grace of a gazelle at a beginners’ jazzercise class. Try as she might to placate her interrogator, Sturgeon spun herself into a tizz and collapsed into her seat defeated.
Dearie me, that Ruth Davidson can be vicious, eh? Well, quite. Not this time, though. The First Minister’s tormentor was Patrick Harvie.
I know. I didn’t believe it either and I was sitting there watching it. Only the wave of ‘Oooooooh’ that rolled along the Press gallery confirmed it.
Down on the floor of parliament, where the Greens sit on the SNP backbenches and vote like it, Patrick was spitting lentils. The Nationalists’ new Climate Change Bill was out and they were backtracking on emissions targets.
Harvie’s chest heaved until, like a Glaswegian Bruce Banner, he exploded in a fit of fury and we were treated to the Incredible Sulk.
He smouldered: ‘It takes some nerve to publish a Bill, the first section of which is titled The Net-Zero Emissions Target but that fails to set a net-zero emissions target.’
‘Why on earth should parliament vote for that?’ he railed. Gone was Nicola’s loyal little cabbage — this green was steamed.
Otherwise, it was classic FMQs: independence, Brexit, the weekly update on the Welsh NHS.
Sturgeon is re-relaunching her bid for a second referendum on separation. Ruth Davidson is not taking it well. Boudica was up on her sensible heels, calling for her bow of burning gold and arrows of desire, readying to charge at the ranks of seditious Nats. She glowered: ‘With her, it is independence first and everything else is a long way behind. Why won’t she give it a rest?’
Oh, that got the Tory benches going, belting their desks with relish. 2014 is like the Eighties; all people of good taste know it was naff but they secretly love the music. Stop Banging On About Independence is the Scottish Tories’ biggest hit in decades.
Sturgeon could tune out the Nat-bashing white noise but when Davidson brought out the numbers, the First Minister’s silence was deafening. Eleven years ago, the SNP promised to cap early years classroom sizes at 18 pupils. Did Sturgeon have any clue how many classes in her own constituency were meeting that pledge?
A clue she did not have. The answer was four — out of 91.
Not to worry, the First Minister was ambitious for Scottish education — she mentioned her ‘ambition’ and her ‘ambitious’ reforms no fewer than eight times yesterday. I’m ambitious for a beach house in the Florida Keys but my property portfolio remains stubbornly stuck at the bird house level.
Sturgeon told her Tory rival to ‘get out a bit more’ and speak to teachers. It was a brave line for the Glasgow Southside MSP to pursue. They’d struggle to pick her out of a police line-up in Govanhill.
Labour’s Iain Gray reminded the First Minister that the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association had unanimously called for her Education Bill to be halted. She replied that she’d been in Glasgow on Monday and was ‘talking to some teachers’ who were ‘enthusing’ about her reforms.
Who these teachers were she didn’t elaborate. You wouldn’t know them. They go to a different school. At my granny’s bit.
Jenny Marra stole the show with a tirade against cuts to school swimming lessons.
She told Sturgeon: ‘The First Minister and I had more opportunities at school under Thatcher than schoolchildren in Scotland have under the First Minister’s negligent government.’
It takes some doing to get a Dundonian socialist to cheer Mrs T, so it’s unfair to say Sturgeon has no achievements to her name.
The Nationalist benches howled like Linda Blair doused in holy water but I found myself feeling sorry for Maggie. She had an ideology and carried it out meticulously, whatever the costs.
This First Minister is just hapless. Iron Lady? She’s pure mush.
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Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at email@example.com. Feature image © Edinburgh Greens (cc-by-2.0).