Ruth opened her mouth and SNP jaws hit the floor

One of the joys of being in the European Union was that we didn’t have to take an interest in European politics.

All those endless commissioners, directives and protocols could be benignly ignored.

Now that we’re leaving — terms and conditions apply; always read the label — we have to pretend we understand qualified majority voting and care about European elections half as much as Eurovision.

Today’s poll has stirred up excessive interest in matters European, so much so that First Minister’s Questions, held yesterday to avoid a clash, dragged itself away from the usual pressing issues of Catalan independence and the ins and outs of the Welsh NHS.

Ruth Davidson started off with a dig at Nicola Sturgeon’s ever-morphing stance on referendums. ‘Isn’t it the case that the First Minister is only interested in democracy when it goes her way?’

It was a half-hearted jab. Davidson knows her party is in for a drubbing today over Brexit, which she thinks is a terrible idea and should be delivered forthwith.

Sturgeon did her rival a solid by getting stuck right into her. ‘The difference between Ruth Davidson and me is that I have principles—‘ I can’t tell you the rest of that sentence because it was drowned in a defeaning thunder of guffawing from Tory MSPs.

Undeterred, Sturgeon moved onto Davidson’s apparent U-turn over Boris Johnson. The bold Ruth was supposed to be One Nation Toryism’s Boudica, standing astride her party to keep Boris out of the leadership.

That was when the blond bomb-thrower didn’t have a hope. Now that he has some momentum behind him, Sergeant Snowflake has reportedly crumpled and shifted her tank into reverse.

Sturgeon showed no mercy: ‘It’s a pity flip-flopping isn’t an Olympic sport because Ruth Davidson would be a gold medallist.’ Davidson’s eyes lit up. She wasn’t reeling; she was preparing to pounce.

The Nationalists heckled with glee as Davidson got to her feet. She opened her mouth and their jaws hit the floor.

‘I’ve never had a problem standing up to the alpha males in my party. Can the First Minister always say the same?’

Chattering, chuntering, hectoring — all sounds cut to silence, save for a low-humming ‘oooooooooh’. Maurice Golden, perched beside Davidson, winced cartoonishly like he’d just watched Tweety Pie drop an ACME anvil on Sylvester.

I flashed back to the day in the playground when someone finally bashed the school bully on the nose. We stood around stunned, guppy-mouthed — and utterly delighted.

Sturgeon picked herself up but her face gave her away. On a scale of pallid to ashen, her complexion was pure Morticia Addams, and despite her best efforts she didn’t come back from it.

It was a clever strategy from Davidson, who had gone into FMQs with the line at the ready to throw Sturgeon off her game. It worked, and distracted from an otherwise lukewarm performance from Davidson, whose Westminster colleagues seem hellbent on spiking her chances of making it to Bute House.

Even so, quoting disgruntled former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars against Sturgeon was weak. Alex Salmond may be a ticking timebomb for the First Minister but Brexit is a nuclear warhead pointed at Davidson’s political future.

Backbencher after backbencher bobbed up to recite a planted question that allowed their leader to urge voters to go to the polls for the Euros and send a message about how beastly Brexit is.

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, timid as a newborn kitten, purred blissfully as the First Minister sailed perilously close to the red line on using parliament to campaign. He’s a nice man but needs to show his claws more often or make way for someone who will.

The chamber itself was roomier than usual, as MSPs bunked off to campaign for last-minute votes. I counted at least a dozen empty seats, though sadly not the dozen I would like.

Meanwhile, Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton asked Sturgeon ‘what she’s doing to promote active travel’. That’s one way to tell her to get on her bike.


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

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