To Holyrood for the celebration of ‘The Greens Might Not Back the Budget — Oh Look, They’ve Backed It’ Day. It comes round earlier every year.
One day out of 365, Patrick Harvie gets to bask in the flash of photographers as TV cameramen capture his bold strides through the corridors of power. His phone may even ring and for once it won’t just be PPI.
Ach, but politics is showbusiness for ugly people and in that regard Holyrood is the RADA of parliaments. Before the Budget, we were treated to a First Minister’s Questions that was little more than a trailer for the main feature.
Mr Harvie claimed star billing here too. He barracked Nicola Sturgeon over Scottish Government subsidies to defence manufacturer Raytheon.
He’s an astonishingly angry little man but you would be too if your party platform consisted of militant veganism, yurt-dwelling and druidical communism.
He hissed: ‘I do not think that people in Scotland should be expecting the Scottish Government to continue to back this industry. In the past week, my colleague Ross Greer—’
Opposition MSPs stormed with laughter, which only spurred Mr Harvie to greater heights of squeaky irritation. Master Greer stirred controversy at the weekend after tweeting that Churchill was a ‘white supremacist and mass murderer’.
Those car insurance adverts are irritating but this seemed a bit of a stretch. The baby carrot was invited on various TV shows to account for himself, which he did with all the historical nous you’d expect of a 24-year-old uni drop-out.
It’s been quite a week for the lad. Millions of people around the world now know who he is and other MSPs might finally stop asking if he’s got lost on a school tour.
The First Minister came back with an answer that bordered on art. She explained that the money didn’t go to munitions themselves but to ‘laser guidance components’, which have ‘a broad range of navigation uses’. These were progressive arms, you see. No doubt they use them to drop social workers, not missiles.
After lunch, Derek Mackay took the floor and had a rare time, and with justification. Word had already leaked that the Greens — I do hope you are sitting down — would be voting for the Budget.
All the golden oldies got a spin. The Tories just wanted ‘tax cuts for the highest earners’. Labour ‘delivered incompetence instead of an alternative budget’.
The Lib Dems, who refused to negotiate with the SNP until it took Indyref2 off the table, had sacrificed extra spending for ‘their constitutional obsession’.
That he can deliver that line with a straight face is all the confirmation you need that Mr Mackay has ambitions to replace Ms Sturgeon one day.
Tory Murdo Fraser was turned out in a red, white and blue tie and his chat was staunch too.
He taunted one Green MSP: ‘Andy Wightman once wrote a book called Who Owns Scotland. Now the question is: Who owns Andy Wightman? The answer is Derek Mackay.’
Up in the back, the six Green MSPs perched guiltily as all around damned them. It was like watching the Cabbage Patch Kids on trial.
The Nationalists pointed indignantly at the Tories. The Tories gestured back with hoots of derision. Soon the whole chamber was rocking with affected laughter.
Quite literally in Roseanna Cunningham’s case, who got rather too excited and bounced around until she slipped and lost her seat. Given her fragile majority in Perthshire South, it was good practice for 2021.
The day belonged not to Derek Mackay or even the Greens — that’s Patrick’s phone fallen silent for another year — but to the crows’ chorus of MSPs who make their contributions exclusively in vowels.
James Kelly’s voice sounds like a ball bursting and when he gets frustrated, he rounds up ‘aw’ and ‘huh’ noises and gives them a doing.
The SNP’s Joan McAlpine focused her fury on the opposition but the crosser she got the faster she ascended the octave scale, like a manatee in distress. The ululating squall made her statement incomprehensible and unpleasant to listen to.
At least Mr Mackay’s wasn’t the only one.
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