‘Will Jackson Carlaw explain to me, right now, where in the Budget he wants us to take the money from? Is it from health? Is it from education? Is it from local government? I am waiting with bated breath for the answer.’
Yes, it was another lively session of Questions from the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon’s weekly opportunity to hold the opposition to account. Jackson Carlaw had come hoping to ask her questions. The affront of the man.
The Tory understudy — sporting a blanched salmon tie from Daks, for those who take an interest in such things — was in impish mood. The SNP claims their block grant has been cut, which is correct in all regards except for the facts.
‘Other than Derek Mackay,’ Mr Carlaw taunted, ‘who in Scotland is claiming that the amount of money that he receives from Westminster will go down next year?’
Ms Sturgeon’s response was like the opening of a vinegar bottle. Out spurted an acid indictment of Tory austerity in which the First Minister excoriated the UK Government for starving Holyrood’s coffers, before touting Derek Mackay’s extra £750million for the NHS.
‘Those were nice excerpts from the First Minister’s Big Book of Voldemort’s Excuses,’ Mr Carlaw quipped, comparing her to Harry Potter’s Dark Lord archnemesis. She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Questioned didn’t like that one and the Death Eaters around her snarled.
Ms Sturgeon snapped back: ‘I did not have to go even to page one of my big book because his questions were not that testing for me.‘
From the boisterous Tory benches came an ‘oooooooh’. Fight! Fight! Fight!
Lady Voldemort still wasn’t over it: ‘What is really irritating Jackson Carlaw today is that we have chosen not to give a tax cut to higher-rate taxpayers like him.‘
Don’t let the Muggles get you down, First Minister.
Next she turned on ‘Murdo Fraser, whom I cannot immediately see because he is probably hiding at the back’.
‘I’m here,’ he chirped, waving puckishly from the middle of the Tory benches, before becoming the latest recipient of a Sturgeon scolding.
She maintained her tax policies were fair because ‘the children of someone who lives and works in Scotland do not have to pay £9,000 a year to go to university’.
‘They cannae get in!’ Annie Wells yapped, gallus wee terrier that she is.
Jackson Carlaw couldn’t leave well enough alone and went back for second helpings. The Nationalists had been boasting of their tax relief for the lowest paid but Mr Carlaw argued that the Treasury deserved the credit.
Households on £15,000 would get a break worth £130.49, he said, but £130 of it came from Philip Hammond’s increase to personal allowance — only the 49p was attributable to the Scottish Government.
‘That is the real difference between the parties in government,’ he told the First Minister, primly. ‘A £130 tax cut for low-paid workers delivered by the Conservatives while the Scottish National Party gives them the price of a packet of crisps.’
A bag of ready salted for just 49p? Where does Carlaw buy his snacks? I’ve been to Eastwood. You need the GDP of a small nation to afford a cappuccino and a Battenburg in the local garden centre.
It’s the ideal policy for the Sturgeon era: a Space Raiders Tax Credit that you can’t spend on Space Raiders because the First Minister will soon have banned those too.
Patrick Harvie kept up the pretence that he will do anything other than dutifully back the Budget. He’s been under the SNP’s thumb for so long the UN recognises the Scottish Green benches as occupied territory. The Nats will chuck them a few windmills and a voucher for Whole Foods and call it a negotiation.
FMQs ran over schedule again, prompting another plea from Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, who asked MSPs to heed him with the defeated sigh of a father-of-six.
He implored: ‘Last week, I appealed to members for short questions and succinct answers. I appealed again this week but I don’t think members are listening.’
A few feet in front of him, the First Minister and her deputy sat chattering away.
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Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.