Nicola Sturgeon’s loudest critics usually come from the Right but the first question time of 2020 was Revenge of the Lefties.
She was in the midst of fending off an education-themed broadside from Jackson Carlaw when a chalk-haired gentleman got to his feet in the public gallery and tried to unfurl a banner against fossil fuels.
He enquired, calmly: ‘If the Scottish Government’s North Sea oil and gas plans go ahead as planned and are replicated worldwide, when will our planet crash and burn? Will my grandchildren see that?’
With that, he allowed the attendants to escort him out without further incident. I’ve seen more subversive scenes on Songs of Praise.
Labour’s Richard Leonard went for the state of social care in South Lanarkshire and soon found an echo in Alex Cole-Hamilton, whose late constituent had allegedly been poorly cared for in an Edinburgh facility. Sturgeon denied there was a crisis, an assertion she may come to regret.
Left-winger Neil Findlay added to her woes by resurfacing the case of a woman on a long waiting list to treat severe neurological pain. He had previously sought redress from Jeane Freeman but neither he nor his constituent were satisfied with her response.
Beside Sturgeon, the health minister kept her head down. Things just keep getting worse for her. Eventually, she’ll have to step back from her senior role and go live in Canada with Meghan and Harry.
Sturgeon began: ‘When any individual does not get the standard of care that they have the right to expect from the national health service, I always—’
‘Blame someone else?’ Miles Briggs interjected.
‘…apologise to them readily,’ Sturgeon pressed on, ‘and I will do that to Neil Findlay’s constituent.’
From his seat in the back, Findlay boomed: ‘You said that last time.’
Sturgeon concluded: ‘I will ask the health secretary today to look again at this issue and liaise with NHS Lothian and respond as quickly as possible to Neil Findlay once she has had an opportunity to do so.’
Her tone wasn’t cold, it was hypothermic.
Suddenly, another protestor was up in the gallery, a young lad who began by apologising for interrupting the proceedings. Say what you like about the kids today; they may be woke but they’re not anarchists. He complained that climate change was a policy area suffering a lack of ‘leadership from the Scottish Government’. Take a ticket, mate.
‘We are embarrassed to be represented by you,’ he told the First Minister. ‘When will the love affair with the fossil fuel industry end?’ The Nationalist backbenches began to look uneasy. This kid was protesting down Scotland. The kerfuffle meant Patrick Harvie’s question went largely unheard but, then, members were still in awe of the protestor: finally, a Green who came to Holyrood to talk about the environment.
Still, the demonstrators didn’t irritate Sturgeon half as much as Neil Bibby did with a question about the current incarnation of the Glasgow Airport rail link. The Labour MSP ran through a list of all the versions her party had announced then quietly dropped, before tossing in a little acid drop: ‘When does the First Minister think she will cancel the latest project?’
Sturgeon’s response was all smirk and no grace: ‘There have been many opportunities for the people of Glasgow to make known their views on the actions and performance of this Government. The outcome has not been particularly pleasant for the Scottish, or the Glasgow, Labour Party.’
This was, by my count, one of five times she pivoted to her electoral success to deflect from a bothersome query. It’s awfully gauche, First Minister. Gauche, and just a wee bit arrogant, the political equivalent of ‘don’t you know who I am?’
The Lefties struck one final blow when Ross Greer tried to link the killing of Iranian terror general Qasem Soleimani to the US military’s continued use of nationalised Prestwick Airport.
Blaming the SNP for the crisis in the Middle East? I didn’t know whether to be impressed or warn him off my turf.