Eight seconds in, the Presiding Officer called a halt to First Minister’s Questions.
What sweet mercy was this? Up in the public gallery, a delegation of student environmentalists had unfurled green flags to protest climate change.
A terribly polite young woman tried to ask Nicola Sturgeon for action on emissions but was cut off by the arrival of the police. Our eco-warriors turned out to be eco-pacifists, putting up no resistance to the rozzers and going quietly.
The disruptors were sharply marched out and the Presiding Officer ruled that FMQs would go ahead as normal. Several MSPs stared at the gallery forlornly, wishing they had a green flag to brandish.
The swampies didn’t miss much. Jackson Carlaw asked Sturgeon about Brexit. He actually brought it up. A Tory. Brexit. The FM beamed at this generous gift.
Carlaw asked why the SNP, which spent most of the last two years demanding the UK stay in the single market, failed to vote for the same in the Commons on Wednesday evening.
‘There was no principle in the way the SNP voted last night,’ he huffed.
Is he new?
Sturgeon explained that that had been her party’s policy ‘for two long years, when stopping Brexit did not seem possible’. The First Minister always stands her ground, it’s just that the ground keeps shifting all the time.
Sturgeon grabbed her chance to get stuck into the Tories, taunting Carlaw over Theresa May’s pledge to resign if MPs voted for her Brussels deal. ‘Theresa May’s position is: If you don’t back me, I’ll stay,’ the SNP leader smirked. ‘She must be the only leader in living memory who has tried to fall on her own sword and managed to miss’.
It was a snappy line, though snappier when it was all over Twitter the day before.
When Rona Mackay rises at FMQs, a sigh ripples across the opposition benches. Her questions are so planted, they should be watered twice a day.
She bravely essayed: ‘Does the First Minister think that it is high time that the Prime Minister accepted that her deal is finished and that Article 50 should be revoked to put a stop to the chaos?’
The First Minister — you will be shocked — thought the very same.
Stewart Stevenson, who resembles Doc from Back to the Future more with each passing day, had arrived fresh from 2017 and was rattled about Mrs May’s £1 billion deal with the DUP.
He proclaimed (Stevenson doesn’t talk; he speaks like he’s reading from a scroll in the town square): ‘The vote of an individual Democratic Unionist is worth more than £100 million but the opinion of this Parliament — and, similarly, that of the Assembly in Cardiff — is worth nothing. How does the First Minister respond to that?’
Sturgeon snipped that ‘a handful of DUP MPs appear to have more say over Scotland’s future than the democratically elected parliament of Scotland does’. It’s a fair point. A cult of provincial oddballs obsessed with flags and centuries-old battles are the last people you want running your country.
Richard Leonard trained his guns on the SNP’s record on food poverty but badly misfired after wandering off on a polemic against the Tories. He’s getting the hang of First Minister’s Questions; he just has to master the part about directing his questions to the First Minister.
Handing Sturgeon a free hit at Westminster — which she duly took — Leonard was caught unawares when she turned it into a slap at his own side.
‘If Labour had not teamed up with the Tories to stop Scotland becoming independent,’ Sturgeon jabbed, ‘we would not have had a Tory Prime Minister for the past few years.’
Like a teenage girl whose shoes had just been dissed in the school cafeteria, Leonard hissed back unthinkingly: ‘The First Minister was teaming up with some interesting people at the weekend.’
He was talking about Alastair Campbell, the spin guru who helped secure Labour’s largest ever landslide victory. At least that was only two decades ago. Earlier, Scottish Labour had put out a video ripping the Nationalists for voting against the Callaghan government in 1979.
Sooner or later, Richard Leonard is going to catch up with events of the last 12 years of SNP government. He might even ask Nicola Sturgeon a question about it one day.