Jackson Carlaw was running on fumes.
The Tories’ designated driver in Ruth Davidson’s absence had tried to rev up the rhetoric on the SNP’s car park tax. He was getting nowhere — until Nicola Sturgeon gave his sputtering performance a jump start.
‘I hope Jackson Carlaw had more success when he sold second-hand cars than he is having in peddling his current line,’ she sniffed, like some unwitting pastiche of Penelope Keith in the Good Life.
It was a bit rich. She’s been flogging the same old banger for years now. Indyref, model 2, price: unknown.
MSPs were mid-wince at the snobbishness when Carlaw piped up: ‘At least I had a real job.’
It was the most brutal comeback since the Enola Gay sprung its bay doors. The First Minister, a professional politician who spent five minutes as a solicitor 20 years ago, was livid.
Her wild gaze darted left and right and back again as though looking for confirmation that Carlaw had actually said it. If her head kept spinning like this, the Presiding Officer was going to call in an exorcist.
To Carlaw’s right, a Tory MP chortled, frowned pensively, then chortled again. All in all, Murdo Fraser (LLB Hons, Aberdeen) was a good sport about it.
Until then, Carlaw had struggled. He lined up his rotten eggs on the parking levy but his aim was wonky.
The Sturgeonator was fit for him. She had seen Carlaw’s launch in Edinburgh of the Tory campaign against the tax. Were these the same Edinburgh Tories who passed a motion in the city council a few months ago backing a study into the merits of… a parking tax?
Carlaw sunk down in his seat, not parked but clamped. A hasty three-point turn and he was off down a side road about the SNP’s public finance minister.
He recounted: ‘On Wednesday, Kate Forbes said: “A key principle, born of Adam Smith, is that taxes should be proportionate to the ability to pay”.’
Carlaw trumpeted this quote like a winning lottery ticket but he had two numbers and the bonus ball at best. If anything, it suggested the SNP was becoming more tolerant of ideological deviation. Forbes had championed Adam Smith and wasn’t currently undergoing re-education at a black site facility in Auchterarder.
Long-suffering Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh continued his polite crusade to get MSPs to ask questions slightly shorter than the Iliad. Unfortunately, his admonition rivalled Patrick Harvie for prolixity. In the time he spent extolling the virtues of brevity, half the Labour Party could have defected and Britain could have left the EU and rejoined for a laugh.
Carlaw slinked up, feline malice glinting in his eye. Out came the claws: ‘Well, after that lengthy introduction…’
He’s feisty, that one.
The line of questioning only got tougher when Kenny Gibson got to his feet. The Nationalist backbencher, who is toadier than an adaptation of Wind in the Willows, tried to trip Sturgeon up with this uncompromising interrogation: ‘To ask the First Minister whether she will provide an update on her recent visits to Canada, the United States and France.’
Oooft. How was she going to come back from that devastating blow?
Air Miles Elsie trotted out the usual boilerplate about jetting around world capitals to promote Scotland. At least she didn’t get out the projector and share her holiday slides from Paris.
Nationalist MSPs cheered a little too lustily at mention of her foreign jaunts. Then again, they’ve read the polls. Every time Sturgeon flies out the country, the departure board reads ‘SNP gain’.
Ross Greer squeaked in at the last minute with praise for last week’s school ‘strike’ over climate change. ‘The young people I was with in Glasgow last Friday had one key demand: keep oil and gas in the ground,’ he prated.
The absolute state of Scotland’s teenagers. Bunking off school to spend the day with Ross Greer. I’d rather take the global warming.
Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Stephen at email@example.com.