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 are scolded, chatterbox MSPs shushed, and long-winded members abruptly sat down with the weary sigh of a woman who would dearly like to dust off the dunce’s cap and stick the lot of them in the corner.
Yesterday, she was back on the backbenches and smartly turned out in an inky floral blazer offset by a coral blossom brooch that could have doubled as a satellite dish. She was broadcasting her displeasure with RBS chief executive Ross McEwan who had brushed off criticism of branch closures by telling customers to pop down their local Post Office instead.
Headmistress Grahame was not impressed with his ‘insulting, ill informed’ suggestion. McEwan hadn’t just let her down, he’d let the whole school down. Nicola Sturgeon looked mildly terrified, as though she too was about to get kept behind after class.
Did the First Minister agree that the recalcitrant banker ought to ‘come round Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale to chat with my constituents to see what they think of his closures and his grand solution’?
‘I’m sure most people would be delighted to visit Christine Grahame’s beautiful constituency,’ Sturgeon replied, hurriedly. McEwan would be well advised to accept the invitaton. It’s either that or a thousand lines.
It was a bumper First Minister’s Questions for backbenchers. Ayrshire Tory John Scott harrumphed about wild youngsters who had besieged Troon beach on Bank Holiday Monday and caused ‘alcohol-related disturbances’.
Across the chamber heads dipped, perhaps guiltily recalling their own ill-behaved youth. Even Jackson Carlaw busied himself with papers, hinting at a teenage shame involving two sherries and a knocked-over picture of the Queen Mother.
Alex Neil was cheered to his feet by friend and foe; his reputation is one of a maverick who is as likely to aim a withering putdown at his own side as at his opponents. The MSP for Airdrie and Shotts has a verbal tic, much imitated but seldom captured, for beginning his sentences with an enthusiastic ‘eeeeeehhh’. It’s meant to give him time to think on this feet but sounds like The Fonz gave up tinkering with motorbikes after Happy Days to pursue a career in Lanarkshire politics.
‘Eeeeeehhh,’ he revved but, alack, mischief was not on his mind and he made a worthy enquiry about drug availbility.
Instead, the fun was provided by Jackie Baillie, an accomplished pot-stirrer who loves riling the Nationalists while looking the picture of reasonableness. She can smile viciously, a rare talent.
Now that the FM’s Growth Commission report had foretold milk and honey the other side of independence, when was she planning to call for a referendum?
Sturgeon went the snotty route: ’My goodness, the opposition parties just hate talking about independence, don’t they?’
Clucking behind her, jeering everywhere else.
With no little pique in her voice, Sturgeon stated that ‘when we have greater clarity on the Brexit outcome, I will set out my views on the best way forward for Scotland’.
The SNP has advanced various definitions of ‘the sovereign will of the Scottish people’ but this one is the most honest: The Scottish people will want whatever Nicola tells them they want.
Richard Leonard bossed the proceedings, revealing that the number of patients waiting longer than they should for tests had shot up 171 per cent under Nicola Sturgeon. The First Minister got out the excuse hose and tried to drown the facts but to no avail.
Leonard is enjoying a good run and I think I know his secret. He keeps wearing the same tie. It’s a socialist cerise number and must be blessed with lefty luck. He’s worn it four weeks on the Trot.
Agree? Disagree? Want to have your say? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at email@example.com.