She made a dig at his ruddy complexion.
‘At least I’ve still got a full head of my own, uncoloured hair,’ he shot back.
Not, dear reader, a provincial watering hole after one too many sherries have been taken but the hallowed chamber of the Scottish Parliament. Peggy Mitchell used to bar folk for less.
When Nicola Sturgeon and Jackson Carlaw step up to debate, you don’t expect Cleon versus Diodotus in the ecclesia but at least they bring a bit of colour to Holyrood’s dull proceedings. Less Athenian discourse, more fishwives brawling on the back green.
The First Minister was on her pins hawking her latest programme for government, an annual digest of all the things she’ll be virtue signalling about on Twitter in the coming 12 months. Precious few of these announcements ever make it to the statute books but the exercise gives Sturgeon something to do between booking flights to the dwindling itinerary of nations yet to be bestowed the honour of a first ministerial visit.
This was the subject of another dagger-clawed remark from Carlaw, given the SNP leader spent most of her time touting the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle climate change.
‘She burned the equivalent of half a tonne of carbon flying to the US to promote independence,’ the interim Tory leader snorted, suggesting the First Minister might want to try practising the emissions reduction she preaches. ‘Between book festivals, are you going to give it a go this time?’
‘Ooooooh,’ went the blue benches. ‘Raaaaahr,’ fumed the yellow benches.
Triumphantly, Sturgeon read from a press release Carlaw’s office had sent earlier that morning. It demanded ministers hurry up and cut air passenger duty. Carlaw’s visage turned a shade of Vesuvius.
The climate emergency loomed large in Sturgeon’s statement, and no wonder: global warming has become a major issue since the First Minister discovered it back in April. The Greta Thunberg of Govanhill pledged a ‘Scottish Green New Deal’, which is the latest thing the SNP is pretending to believe in, after losing interest in social justice, improving the NHS and closing the attainment gap.
More than £500m would go to sprucing up infrastructure since ‘the vast majority of public transport journeys in Scotland are by bus.’ Some aren’t even ScotRail replacement services. There would be a Circular Economy Bill, she said, as though their entire economic strategy hadn’t been going in circles for years.
‘While the Westminster government shuts down,’ Sturgeon boasted, ‘the Scottish Government is stepping up.’ Well, ministers did climb aboard a lot of planes bound for Shetland last month, though to no avail.
Opponents have demanded that Sturgeon call an immediate halt to North Sea oil and gas production, which does seem a bit extreme. Still, the First Minister says slashing emissions is ‘a moral obligation’, so we all need to do our bit, whether that’s switching off the TV at night or giving up the personalised helicopter.
It went on in this vein for some time: all the ambitions in the world, no clue how to deliver them. Ten minutes in, a class of schoolchildren in the gallery were marched out by their teacher. Perhaps they had promised never to be naughty again.
The government benches were mostly sluggish, though they perked up when the boss got back onto her favourite subject. She would be seeking the legal powers to hold another independence referendum because ‘mitigating bad Westminster decisions should not be what this parliament is about.’ Quite right. This parliament has more than enough bad decisions by the SNP to be mitigating.
Commenting on the Brexit chaos down south, the First Minister added: ‘SNP MPs will do everything possible to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.’
‘Everything except vote for a deal,’ Adam Tomkins sniped from up back.
Nonetheless, Scotland should have ‘the opportunity to choose that better, more hopeful future as an independent country.’ Scexit, not Brexit. Our mistakes, not theirs. Chaos, but wir ain chaos.