Ministerial musical chairs for a government tired of governing

Reshuffles are usually dramatic – yesterday’s in Holyrood was like a bloodbath. But often they fall victim to the law of unintended consequences. In 1962, Harold Macmillan abruptly sacked his Chancellor Selwyn Lloyd and six senior ministers in a ruthless shake-up. Nicola Sturgeon upturned her ministry for similar reasons – like Macmillan’s Tories, the SNP…

Public trust lies abandoned in a dark corner of the corridors of power

The breathless horror of the political class at the rise of rabble-rousing populism is matched only by a stubborn refusal to learn lessons from it. The past week has seen much wailing and gnashing of liberal teeth over Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on illegal border crossings into the United States. Italy’s far Right…

SNP will find picking a fight with David Mundell is a mistake

It was a modern-day David versus Goliath. Scottish Secretary David Mundell spent last week facing down the massed ranks of intemperate nationalism – and he did it almost single-handedly. Some say the SNP’s Commons walkout was a masterstroke. I am not so sure. How many voters saw Joanna Cherry – the phrase ‘Don’t you know…

Did Nicola know another word for a hummingbird’s beak? Err, no…

‘Can the First Minister give us another word for a hummingbird’s beak?’ ‘Not immediately, no.’ What was this? Had the Presiding Officer finally taken up my idea of turning First Ministers’ Questions into a general knowledge quiz? It’s unfair expecting Nicola Sturgeon to commit facts and figures about the NHS to memory. Maybe she’d have…

Sturgeon girns, spins and splurges for the faithful

They couldn’t agree a slogan for the SNP’s Aberdeen conference and so there were three. The branding read ‘Stronger for Scotland’. Nicola Sturgeon kept telling us she was ‘moving Scotland forward’. The garish-yellow lanyards were emblazoned ‘We can’ in a scratchy font that looked like it had been scribbled in biro at the last minute,…

The year my uncle was murdered I learned that true evil existed

The summer my uncle was murdered was the summer I grew up. It was 2001 and reality had not yet crashed into the breezy Nineties delusion of world peace through the World Wide Web but a family in Coatbridge was about to lose its innocence.  Robert Hawker, known universally as ‘Rab’, was a devoted partner,…

Mission that will test even an ex-Marine

Keith Brown belongs to the estimable ranks of politicians to have served Queen and country in uniform. The Second World War flooded Parliament with veterans and gave us Labour hawks like Denis Healey and the retired Tory colonels so beloved of parliamentary sketch-writers. Mr Brown hails from a later wave but one no less courageous….

Striking the wrong tone on murder

Nicola Sturgeon reminded me of someone and it took a while to put my finger on it. The First Minister was taking questions from Ruth Davidson on something more sombre than the usual petty point-scoring. The Scottish Tory leader was demanding justice for Craig McClelland, a father of three stabbed to death in a Paisley…

The failures that will cost the SNP dearly

Scottish politics is so highly strung about trivial things that it seems perverse to complain about an under-reaction. Yet there is no other way to describe the response to the Scottish Fiscal Commission report, published last week and subject of little more than tepid retreads of old soundbites at Holyrood. Admittedly, fiscal forecasts are not…

Headmistress Grahame has Holyrood on its best behaviour

Christine Grahame doesn’t stand, she ascends. The veteran Nationalist is far from grand but comports herself with a headmistressly air that forewarns ministers not to test her patience. Grahame has no time for your nonsense and, as deputy presiding officer, dispenses with the easygoing style of Ken Macintosh in favour of the martinet. Late-coming frontbenchers…