Sturgeon outfoxed by new face of Scottish Greens

This sketch tries not to make a habit of praising the Scottish Greens, or — in the interests of balance — any other semi-communist rabble of chickpea-fuelled turtle-worshippers.

But once again Alison Johnstone, who now enjoys joint custody of the parliamentary party with shouty-angry dad Patrick Harvie, gave a masterclass in getting under Nicola Sturgeon’s skin at First Minister’s Questions.

She started off with a Sturgeon quote from two years ago. Ruh-roh. It’s an iron-clad rule of politics that if you’re getting your own words quoted back at you, you’re in trouble. ‘I have always been an opponent of fox hunting and I remain so,’ the First Minister had once said.

Johnstone honed in on her prey: ‘We have had plenty of talk, but hunting continues in Scotland, 17 years after it was meant to have been banned. Unbelievably, the Tories now appear to have a stronger position on this issue than the SNP does.’

Ouch. That had to sting. Johnstone had heard back from almost 10,000 people on her proposal to toughen up the existing ban in Scotland, which animal rights campaigners argue is weaker than its English equivalent. By the look on the First Minister’s face, this was finally a comparison with England that she wasn’t keen on.

The Nationalists promised a toughening up of the legislation at the start of the year. When, Johnstone wondered, were they going to get round to doing it?

The Scottish Government did indeed have ‘proposals to further reform the law’, came back Sturgeon, and had already promised to bring them forward.

The Greens’ semi-co-quasi-every-second-Thursday leader couldn’t hide her contempt for that answer.

‘That announcement was made 11 months ago. It did not even merit a mention in the programme for government,’ she riposted. Row upon row of Nationalists were suddenly fixated on some fascinating architectural detail of the far wall.

Her quarry was cornered and Johnstone went in for the kill: ‘The SNP has been in government for 12 years, and what it is doing is at odds with what it is saying. Instead of action, we have endless reviews and delays, which have become a hallmark of this government’s approach to wildlife protection and more.’

Oooh. And here I thought Johnstone was opposed to bloodsports. She’s like a Linda McCartney vegan hotpot: you’re sceptical at first but she gets the job done nicely.

The opening exchanges of FMQs centred on the tragic death of a child at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. A tremor runs through the chamber during discussions like this – ‘there but for the grace of God’ is on many a mind. There was no evident political advantage-seeking, which is as it should be but a small mercy all the same.

The remainder of FMQs was a plodding and uneventful affair. At times like these, the sketch writer’s mind begins to wander and his eye is drawn into politically incorrect observations about parliamentary fashion. Nicola Sturgeon was sporting a swirly pendant necklace, a reminder that the First Minister is expert at pairing sensible suits with little sparkles of costume jewellery that make the whole outfit pop. Contra her nastier detractors, Sturgeon has a certain flair. She’s wrong about everything but stylishly wrong.

Jackson Carlaw is aye spiffily turned out and my sources tell me this is largely down to Mrs Carlaw’s reliably Tory sense of taste and decorum. Alas, the radioactive ties are back, and this week it was an energetic shade of emerald that made the Tory leader look like he had a fluorescent leprechaun knotted around his neck.

This at least adds a splash of colour to a dark, wintry election. If you spot an other-worldly glow in and around East Renfrewshire in the next few weeks, and wonder why extra-terrestrial life has chosen Newton Mearns as its first point of contact, rest assured — it’s just Jackson Carlaw out leafleting again.

Published by stephenjdaisley

Political journalist and commentator.

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