Carlaw turns on his magic beam for FMQs farewell show

‘It would be indiscriminate and devastating and would bring unspeakable human suffering and widespread and lasting environmental damage,’ Nicola Sturgeon intoned gravely.

Other than that, she was all for Pete Wishart becoming Speaker. In fact, the First Minister was talking about a potential nuclear war, though given the choice I reckon she’d have to think about it.

It was a suitably apocalyptic tone for a First Minister’s Questions dedicated to climate armageddon. They came at her from Left, they came at her from Right — even her own MSPs had a go. Well, the Greens’ Alison Johnstone.

Johnstone, Patrick Harvie with a personality, was spitting lentils. ‘I congratulate the First Minister on her change of heart in declaring a climate emergency,’ she slid the shank in with a smile, ‘just weeks after voting against the Green motion to do just that.‘

Richard Leonard wondered how her newly declared climate emergency squared with the SNP’s plan to cut air departure tax. Sturgeon replied: ‘We will need to reconsider policies across the range of our responsibilities‘. This sounded suspiciously like code for: ‘Quick, Peter. Scrub the website. Scrub it now.’

What’s more, the Scottish Government couldn’t create as many eco-friendly supply chain jobs as it previously promised because it needed more powers from Westminster. If the country reused plastics as often as the First Minister recycles talking points, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

This is what comes of making bold statements at party conference without a plan to carry them through. You get the applause, you get the headlines — but you also get asked what exactly you’re going to do about the thing you’re now pretending to care about.

Sturgeon seems to have been spurred to action on climate change after watching skateboarding teenagers sob about the polar bears on TV. Someone needs to sit her down with an old Grange Hill box set and point her in the direction of the education brief.

Even little Maurice Golden got the better of her, and he still looks like he’s there doing his YTS.

Big-boy Tory Jackson Carlaw delivered his swan song as interim leader with all the sassy panache of Liberace on the farewell tour. All that was missing was the taffeta tuxedo and the chorus of Mr Sandman.

‘I hope that the First Minister has the six tests written down in front of her,’ he hissed, apropos Sturgeon’s currency blunder on Wednesday. ‘Because yesterday she had a wee bit of a problem remembering what they were.’

Riffing on rumours, denied by Sturgeon, that she has been punting for a job at the UN, Carlaw mewed: ‘I have a sister-in-law who works in human resources who can help to polish up the CV the First Minister apparently has sitting with the United Nations.’

The Kofi Annan of Pollokshields did not like that one bit and flashed an icy stare that recalled Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Let’s hope for Jackson Carlaw’s sake he doesn’t own a pet parakeet.

Veteran unilateralist Bill Kidd was down for a question on banning nuclear weapons — the one that prompted Sturgeon’s talk of annihilation. So when Jackie Baillie popped up first it looked like we were in for a pre-emptive strike.

A staunch woman of the Left who is nonetheless parliament’s leading champion of Trident, Baillie is something of a curio in the Labour Party these days — the political love child of Barbara Castle and Dr Strangelove.

Alas, she was more concerned about the discovery of pigeons inside the Vale of Leven Hospital. Mindful of the potential for spreading infection, Sturgeon said the birds had been removed and staff ordered to keep the windows shut.

Her interlocutor was unimpressed and urged the First Minister to ‘deal effectively with the problem’.

The disruptive doos got off lightly with Sturgeon. Bomber Baillie would have turned HMS Vanguard on them by now.


Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Letters: Stephen at

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